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Nelson in the News: 15th July 2013

Nelson's Last Portrait

This is the last portrait made of Nelson from life, and it sold recently at Sotheby's for 64,900. 

It's one of the less 'pretty' portraits of Nelson, but for that reason is also one of the most human and realistic.  The artist was John Whichelo, who created the chalk portrait when visiting Nelson at Merton in September 1805.  Nelson sailed from Portsmouth on 14th September, so the sitting really was squeezed in at the last moment.

The portrait, showing Nelson in profile looking to the left, is very similar to the one painted by Simon de Koster (see bottom of page) in 1800.  That one was known to be one of Nelson's favourites of himself, so it's possible that either directly or indirectly, he influenced the 21-year-old Whichelo to create something similar. 

Whichelo kept the portrait himself for 33 years, until in 1838 he was employed in giving drawing lessons to the son of Rear-Admiral Sir William Parker.  Then he gave it to Parker with the note:

"Mr Whichelo most respectfully begs to send Sir Wm Parker the Head of the Late Illustrious Nelson.  Drawn by him from the Hero during his short stay at Merton the beginning of September 1805."

It remained with Parker's descendents ever since, until the sale in July 2013.

Copyright Vicki Singleton 2013.