The Battle of Trafalgar, fought October 5, 1805, is perhaps the best known naval battle of all time. As a result of the victory, Britain held an almost unchallenged domination of the seas for a decade, and most of the next century. Artist Thomas Buttersworth served faithfully in the British Navy, and early in his new career painted spectacular scenes of naval battles, none more famous. This superb pair of miniatures is a prime example.
Off Cadiz, the British Royal Navy Fleet led by Admiral Viscount Lord Nelson and Vice Admiral Collingwood at last sighted the combined French and Spanish Fleets of Admiral Villeneuve, Admiral d’Avila, and Admiral Cisternes, and sought to deny Napoleon’s naval empire. In dramatic action, a First Rate British Warship drives between two of the largest opponents, cannons firing broadsides. It is believed to be Collingwood’s Flagship ROYAL SOVEREIGN, heavily damaging and eventually capturing the Spanish Flagship SANTA ANA. Two more captured Spanish Ships are in the second work, the British Union Jack on the flag hoist over the red-and-gold ensigns. Thirty-two British ships fought 23 French and 15 Spanish warships at Trafalgar, and while the British lost 1,587 fighting men, the French and Spanish losses are estimated closer to 16,000.
As a result of his deep involvement in this combat, Nelson is both commemorated and mourned. Although victorious over the combined French and Spanish fleets, the brilliant and innovative tactician was mortally wounded during the battle, victim of a French sharpshooter. His loss was noted and felt throughout the British Empire. This expertly detailed small pair of paintings by Buttersworth successfully renders this important landmark battle closing Napoleon’s ambition to attack Britain.
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