Nelson receiving the Spanish surrender after the Battle of St Vincent
A white marble relief frieze panel in two sections
146cm high x 376cm overall length
the larger section 46cm at maximum depth, the smaller 35cm
|Estimate:||£20,000 - £40,000|
Edward Hodges Baily RA FRS was a prolific English sculptor responsible for numerous public monuments, portrait busts, statues and exhibition pieces as well as works in silver. He carved friezes for both the Marble Arch and Buckingham Palace in London. His numerous statues of public figures include that of Horatio Nelson on top of Nelson's Column and Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey on Grey's Monument in Newcastle upon Tyne. Throughout his career Baily was responsible for creating a number of monuments and memorials for British churches and cathedrals, including several in St Paul's Cathedral.
The scene depicts the Spanish Admiral Don Francisco Xavier Winthuysen, who lies dying on a gun carriage of the deck of the San Josef. He weakly hands his sword to Nelson while supported by Ovo sailors, watched by other sailors and British officers.
The Battle of Saint Vincent took place on 14 February 1797 and established Nelson as a hero, both for his independence of command and his personal bravery. It was also a turning point for the British Navy who had previously been driven out of the Mediterranean following French successes in Italy.
The English fleet under Admiral Sir John Jervis, with only fifteen ships, drove a line through the larger and superior Spanish navy which was lying off Cape St.Vincent, Portugal. Before Jervis could turn to attack the larger group, Nelson broke line in the Captain, anticipating his commander's signal, and accompanied by other British frigates, took four Spanish 'prizes' from the rear, himself personally boarding the San Nicolas and San Josef. The British victory demonstrated the ineptitude of the Spanish navy, and Nelson was made a Knight of the Bath for his exploits, while Jervis was created Earl St Vincent.
A similar scene was recorded in a more dramatic and romantic manner in a painting of 1806 by Richard Westall but on the San Nicolas (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich). Interestingly, in the Nash/Flaxman model in the Victoria and Albert Museum (south side, not shown) Flaxman's composition is the other way round with Nelson standing on the left to receive the sword with his right hand. It must be assumed that because his right arm was amputated later in 1797 (at the battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife) Baily reversed the action, to disguise the missing limb. Thus the hero receives the sword with his left hand which disjoints the action of the full scheme of the frieze. (Westall had to find a similar solution in his painting).
Baily's composition makes interesting comparison with Westmacott's melée in the Napoleon frieze. Here we have classical purity, the figures starkly arranged in a Grecian style frieze and in noble profile. Then to focus attention on the action of surrender, Baily breaks up the powerful verticals of sailors and officers by tilting up the gun carriage, on which the dying Spanish commander lies, and using the device of a coil of rope to support one kneeling sailor. The action is thus cleverly foreshortened and succeeds in instilling a certain pathos into the scene of a row of almost emotionless faces. This is accentuated by the austerity of composition and refreshing use of empty space in the background.
This historic frieze in two sections is already professionally packed in two bespoke wooden crates ready for shipping.
Provenance: Private collection, The Manor of Littleton, Shepperton, Middlesex
Sothebys 12th May 1995, Lot 181
Removed from an office redevelopment in Central London in 2022