Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830)
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)
Oil on canvas
317.5 x 225.4 cm
Painted for George IV
This triumphant portrait of the Duke of Wellington dominates the Waterloo Chamber. Lawrence was specially commissioned by George IV to paint a pantheon of military heroes, diplomats and powerful heads of state responsible for the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815. These paintings were initially proposed for Carlton House, but George IVs plans for Windsor Castle latterly came to include a new room specially created for the display of Lawrences portraits: the Waterloo Chamber.
Lawrences composition is that of victory, heralding Wellington as the finest of military commanders and the liberator of Europe. Positioned under a Roman style triumphal arch, he grasps the Sword of State (symbolising the sovereigns royal authority) in his hand and holding it aloft in an heroic gesture. He wears Field Marshals uniform and his baton (a symbol of office) rests on a ledge beside a letter addressed to him and signed George P.R. signifying his promotion to Field Marshal and the gratitude of the Crown. In the background we glimpse the procession leading to the special thanksgiving service to celebrate the Victory at Waterloo, which took place at St Pauls Cathedral on 7 July 1815.
Retiring from an extremely successful military career Wellington entered politics, eventually becoming Prime Minister in 1828. He held a variety of prominent public roles and acted as mentor to Queen Victoria.