Maritime Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C 7 What is the early history of this portrait of Nelson after it was painted?

Topic: Other

This portrait now resides at Red House Museum in Christchurch, where it was acquired by Herbert Druitt, a local history collector, who established that museum in the mid-20th C. It would be helpful to establish the full provenance of this portrait at is appears to have such a fascinating story. It was exhibited at a Trafalgar Centenary exhibition in 1905. The work was then owned then by H. D. Ellis Esq., thought to be the well-known collector Hubert Dynes Ellis (1845–1925). According to the exhibition catalogue there was an intriguing annotation on the back of the frame, allegedly written by Lady Hamilton.
'The portrait of the great, good and brave Nelson, Lady Hamilton gives to Mr Ivey, of Battersea Bridge, as Lord Nelson often used to speak to him coming from Merton to town, and Lady Hamilton knows he was a favourite of Lord N.'

Cliff Thornton, Entry reviewed by Art UK


Gregory Burgess,

I found reference of a John Ivey, who describes himself as the clerk of the Cheque at Battersea Bridge in a court case of the Old Bailey Proceedings, 15th September 1779 between
ANN (the wife of Rowley) LASCELLES , who was was indicted for stealing a gelding of a bay colour, value 40 s. the property of Thomas Patrick , May 31st
Ivey was on duty that night and captures a horse that was loose upon the Bridge. The horse is the disputed property. A fracas takes place with two people ending up in the Thames.
This has to be the Ivey to whom Lady Hamilton gifts the painting.

As recognised in the caption, this painting appears to be one of many copies and versions of the oil portrait by the pastellist Simon de Coster in the National Maritime Museum (BHC2900).

Is there evidence that Druitt owned the Christchurch is painting? The Art UK’s information says unknown source. In any case, as Keiran points out, this is not the one exhibited in 1905, so its provenance remains unknown and perhaps not so potentially interesting.

I regret that the NMM online description of BHC2900 is informative more in terms of the quantity of versions of this image that it mentions rather than quality in distinguishing their sequence of descent from the original 'sketch' by de Koster which Nelson reputedly thought the most lifelike portrayal of him. I don't think the NMM oil is that, wherever it lies in the subsequent line. The most reliable view will probably be in Richard Walker's 'The Nelson Portraits' book (which I don't have).

Osmund Bullock,

Although no longer relevant in the context of our painting (which as Kieran has shown, seems not to be the copy with the Lady Hamilton inscription), I'm sure Gregory has found the right man. A John Ivey, doubtless the same, was apparently living in Battersea when his son (also John) was christened in March 1778 at St Mary's just a few hundred yards from the bridge; and he was still living in the parish early in 1810 when he died aged 70 and was buried in the churchyard.

I'm puzzled, though, by Gregory's description of events at Battersea Bridge in 1779, and think he must have mixed up two different Old Bailey cases of 15th Sep. The case where Ivey was a witness involved a highway robbery that took place at Nine Elms (a mile or two from the Bridge) on 2nd Sep: nobody called Lascelles or Patrick was involved, no horse was stolen, and no-one went into the river. There was indeed a loose horse caught by Ivey at the bridge...but that was the result of the very drunk highwayman falling off it! See

Cliff Thornton,

Kieran et al, sincere thanks for highlighting my error in misinterpreting the two portraits of Nelson by Koster. Sackcloth and ashes time for me.

Gregory Burgess,

Osmund - Thanks for clarifying the sloppy reportage on my part. I confused myself by writing notes on separate sheets. You'd have thought I would know not to do this at my age.

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