James Gillray. “The Death of Admiral Lord-Nelson, in the moment of Victory!” [Original issue, London: Hannah Humphrey, 23 December 1805.]–this strike, London: Henry G. Bohn, . 13 1/2 x 10 1/2. Etching. Hand-colored. Conserved: backed with rice paper. Very good condition. George 10442.
A later printing of one of British caricaturist James Gillray’s most dramatic prints. One of the best-known British caricaturists, James Gillray (1756-1815) made a name for himself through his witty compositions, capable draftsmanship, and exquisite detail. Through his copious political satires, he set a new standard for the genre, becoming a measure by which his successors were judged. In a departure from his usual wit and satire, Gillray drew this poignant memorial image commemorating the death of Admiral Lord Nelson on the HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
As a talented and popular satirist, Gillray built his reputation on his keen interpretations of current events – a skill he employed here to help England mourn a national hero. Details are plentiful: in the distance, the French ship Redoubtable is yet visible after firing the fatal shot. British marksmen take aim from the left rear ground of the print, continuing the battle even as allegorical figure of Immortality sounds his trumpet over Nelson. Behind the fallen admiral, Britannia weeps as sailors arrive with the banner of the enemy: victory has been secured. During his lifetime, London publisher Hannah Humphrey printed most of Gillray’s caricatures. The business and the plates remained in the Humphrey family until 1835, when London publisher Henry G. Bohn saved the plates from the scrap heap. Bohn subsequently reprinted Gillray’s images and issued them in a single volume of 582 plates, including this print.