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The Greenwich Hospital collection

Paintings and artefacts donated to Greenwich Hospital.

Admiral Sir William Penn.

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Admiral Sir William Penn.
A three-quarter-length portrait of Admiral Sir William Penn by Sir Peter Lely. With his left hand, he gestures towards the stern of a ship at sea. In the First Dutch War (1652-54), Penn commanded squadrons at the Battles of Kentish Knock, Portland, the Gabbard and Scheveningen, and he received a gold medal and chain from Parliament. He was dispatched to fetch the King from Holland with Sandwich in the 'Naseby', 86 guns, and was made a Commissioner of the Admiralty. As Captain of the Fleet at the Battle of Lowestoft in 1665, he was in the flagship of the Duke of York where his experience and advice did much to ensure the victory. The portrait is one of the flagmen portraits seen by Pepys on 18 April 1666 in Lely's studio. It was listed as to be done, and was commissioned following the Battle of Lowestoft, the first fleet action of the Second Dutch War (1664-67). At the Restoration, Lely was appointed Principal Painter to Charles II. The portrait was presented by George IV to Greenwich Hospital in 1824.

Captain James Cook.

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Captain James Cook.
In 1829 Locker begged Nathaniel Dance's famous portrait of Captain Cook from the estate of Sir Joseph Banks. Cook is wearing captain's full-dress uniform of 1774-87. His chart of the Southern Ocean lies on the table together with his hat. The portrait was painted for Sir Joseph Banks in about May 1776, after Cook's second Pacific voyage and was presented to Greenwich Hospital by Banks's executor in 1829. Cook led three voyages of exploration to the Pacific between 1768 and 1779 which changed Europe's understanding of the world and also its shape. Sailing across then unknown seas from the Antarctic to Alaska, he surveyed the coasts of New Zealand and Australia, most of the islands of the central Pacific and charted all he found with great accuracy.
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Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson.

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Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson.
This is one of the most famous portraits of Nelson. It was painted by Lemuel Abbott and shows Nelson after the Battle of the Nile in 1798. It is a half-length portrait, with Nelson facing forward with his head turned to the right. He wears rear-admiral's undress uniform of 1795-1812 pattern, with gold epaulettes, the Nile decorations, and in his hat the distinctive diamond chelengk given to him by the Sultan of Turkey. On his jacket he wears the star of a KB, granted to him on 27 September 1797, together with the Neapolitan Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, and the Turkish Order of the Crescent. His empty right sleeve is pinned across the front of his coat by the star of his KB and this acts as a reminder that Nelson lost his right arm at Santa Cruz, in July 1797. This portrait was not painted from life but was commissioned in 1800 by John McArthur, Nelson's biographer, in Nelson's absence abroad. It is based on a study made by Abbot at Greenwich Hospital in 1797, while Nelson was convalescing from loss of his arm and staying there with his former captain, the Lieutenant-Governor, William Locker. This is shown by the ribbons on his slit upper right sleeve, which at that time helped accommodate the dressing on the stump of his arm but were removed from his uniforms once the wound had healed. Nelson was a rear-admiral from 20 February 1797 to his promotion to vice-admiral on 1 June 1801. This painting, with others by Richard Westall and Benjamin West, engraved in Clarke and McArthur's 1809 biography of Nelson, form a group presented to Greenwich Hospital by Jasper de St Croix and others in 1849.

England's Pride and Glory.

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England's Pride and Glory.
This picture-within-a-picture by Thomas Davidson shows a naval cadet looking at the most famous of Lemuel Abbott's many portraits of Nelson. This was presented with a number of other pictures to the Naval Gallery of Greenwich Hospital in 1849, which is the setting for Davidson's painting. Nelson was regarded as the greatest British naval hero and so the narrative of the painting indicates that he is perceived as its real subject, conveying a patriotic message to the boy and the viewer. The woman with her arm on the boy's shoulder, possibly his mother, indicates what is expected of him as a young naval cadet through the example of Nelson. Nelson, through his likeness, spurs on subsequent generations to future deeds of greatness. These aspirations appear to be accepted by the woman, child, and viewer, which is appropriate to the period in which this painting was produced. It was an era in which notions of empire and patriotism were regarded as paramount. The other two paintings in the picture are also associated with Nelson and are still in the Greenwich Hospital Collection of the National Maritime Museum. The large image to the left is 'Victory of the Nile, 1 August 1798', by George Arnald, and the other is 'Nelson in Conflict with a Spanish Launch, July 1797', by Richard Westall.
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Nelson's Trafalgar Coat.

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Nelson's Trafalgar Coat.
In 1845 Prince Albert donated the bullet-holed 'Trafalgar coat' in which the admiral was shot. Contrary to popular myth, Nelson did not wear full-dress uniform at Trafalgar but this plain 'undress' uniform coat (1795-1812 pattern). The hole made by the bullet can be seen on the left shoulder, just underneath the damaged epaulette. The blood stains on the tails and left sleeve are probably from the wounds of Nelson's secretary, John Scott, who was killed earlier in the action.

The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805.

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The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805.
In 1829 George IV donated Turner's superb evocation of the carnage and fury of Trafalgar. It shows HMS 'Victory' (centre) still flying the flags of Nelson's famous signal, 'England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty'. To the right of the 'Victory' lies the stricken French ship 'Redoutable' flying a British flag over a French one to signify her capture. Just beyond the 'Victory', on the left is the Spanish ship 'Santissima Trinidad', and beyond her, the stern of the 'Bucentaure'. Burning fiercely in the left background is the 'Achille' and just coming into view is the British 'Temeraire'. Turner's image centres around the moment when the 'Redoutable' is finally taken and when her crew have just surrendered, marked by the raised arms of the sailors. He also implies the fatal wounding of Nelson, by 'Victory's' falling foremast bearing his white vice-admiral's flag.
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Find out more
StoriesThe Royal Hospital for Seamen, Greenwich: 'A Refuge for All'
The foundation of the Greenwich Hospital and the Greenwich Royal Hospital School
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GalleriesThornhill's painted ceiling
Early sketches for Thornhill's Painted Hall in Greenwich Hospital.
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StoriesMaritime Greenwich: A World Heritage Site
A unique historical landscape
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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