Battle of Trafalgar

ROBERT DODD (1748 -1815)

The Battle and Victory of Trafalgar
Set of four coloured aquatint engravings
by Robert Dodd from his own paintings

Published by R.Dodd, 41 Charing Cross,
6 doors from the Admiralty, March 1806,
inscribed to the Rt. Hon Lord Collingwood
and his division

20½ x 30¼ in / 52 x 77 cm

Sold Ref: NPO619


The Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 was certainly the most complete victory of the age of sail, if not the most decisive naval engagement ever fought. Twenty-seven British ships of the line led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under the French Admiral Villeneuve in the Atlantic off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being captured or sunk, thereby conclusively ending French plans to invade England.

Nelson`s stunning achievement in defeating an enemy fleet superior in armour and tonnage should have kept many marine painters and engravers busy over the immediate years to come with many different images of the action to satisfy the public interest. Whether or not it was the national outpouring of grief which followed the news of the demise of Admiral Nelson, and the subsequent plethora of  images of  England`s tragic loss, very few contemporary  engravings were published of the actual battle itself. Robert Dodd`s monumental set of four coloured aquatints published a scant six months after the event were to remain the most important set of naval engravings ever reproduced.

Moreover despite the monumental achievement undertaken by Dodd to record firstly in oils the accurate depiction of the detail of events during the battle, followed by the subsequent raising of funds himself to engrave, print and publish such a huge project, very few complete sets of this battle remain in existence today. The current set of four here on offer for sale are believed to be the first set to have surfaced within the past twenty five years.

Robert Dodd (1748 – 1815)
British marine painter and engraver who lived and worked in Wapping, London. Nothing is known about his training but he was a prolific aquatint engraver who published much of his own work. He exhibited at the Society of Artists, London, in 1780, and at the Royal Academy between 1782 – 1809. He was one of the principal recorders of naval actions from the time of the American War of Independence and the French revolutionary Wars. He engraved over one hundred of his paintings, thereby gaining widespread recognition of his skill as a marine painter. His masterpiece is generally considered to be his large (76 x 134 in) painting of Lord Howe`s famous victory over the French, The end of the Battle of the First of June 1794, which was painted in situ to hang in the dining room of his local inn, the Half Way House in Commercial Road. It is not known whether he served some time at sea in his youth, but Dodd was renowned for his meticulous research for his battle paintings and was very accurate in his depiction of the details of ships and conditions at sea.