Portrait of the Duke of Wellington

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Portrait of the Duke of Wellington
Francisco Goya - Portrait of the Duke of Wellington.jpg
ArtistFrancisco Goya
MediumOil on mahogany panel
Dimensions64.3 cm × 52.4 cm (25.3 in × 20.6 in)
LocationNational Gallery, London

The Portrait of the Duke of Wellington is a painting by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya of the British general Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington during the latter's service in the Peninsular War.[1] One of three portraits Goya painted of Wellington, it was begun in August 1812, after the subject's entry into Madrid, showing him as an earl in red uniform and wearing the Peninsular Medal. The artist then modified it in 1814 to show him in full dress black uniform with gold braid and to add the Order of the Golden Fleece and Military Gold Cross with three clasps (both of which Wellington had been awarded in the interim).[2]


The painting was probably made from life, at sittings in Madrid, painted in oils on a mahogany panel. Although a successful general, the Wellington depicted by Goya is tired from the long campaigning, having won a victory at the Battle of Salamanca on 22 July 1812 before triumphantly entering Madrid on 12 August 1812. The half-length portrait shows the subject in a three-quarter profile, facing to his right, with the head turned slightly to the left, towards the viewer. He is standing upright, with his head held high, perhaps to combat his relatively modest stature.

The face is carefully painted, but much of the painting was done quickly, with great energy, with the military orders outlined with a few brushstrokes. In some areas, such as the eyes and mouth, the brown priming remains visible to create a stronger contrast between light and dark areas of paint.

His uniform bears the insignia of several military orders. His left breast bears three stars: the British Order of the Bath (top, awarded in 1804), the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword (lower left, awarded in 1811) and the Spanish Order of San Fernando (lower right, awarded in 1812). He wears two broad sashes over his right shoulder: the pink sash of the Order of Bath over the blue sash of the Order of the Tower and Sword . Around his neck hangs the Order of the Golden Fleece (awarded in August 1812) on a red ribbon, the Military Gold Cross lying lower on longer pink and blue ribbons. Wellington was entitled to all nine gold clasps to the Military Gold Cross, but only three are shown, perhaps signifying the battles fought before the painting was started in the summer of 1812.

In 1812, Goya also completed a chalk drawing of Wellington, now held by the British Museum, and a large oil-on-canvas Equestrian portrait of the Duke of Wellington  [pl], which was exhibited at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid in September 1812 and is now at Apsley House. X-ray analysis in the 1960 showed that the equestrian portrait has the head of Wellington added to a body painted previously, perhaps Manuel Godoy or Joseph Bonaparte.

Reception and theft[edit]

The painting was acquired by the Duke of Wellington, and came into the possession of Louisa Catherine Caton, wife of Francis D'Arcy-Osborne, 7th Duke of Leeds and sister-in-law of Wellington's older brother Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley. Her first husband Felton Hervey-Bathurst fought with Wellington in the Iberian Peninsula, commanding the 14th Light Dragoons from 1811 to 1814, and then on Wellington's staff in the Waterloo Campaign and Wellingtons representative at the signing of the Convention of St. Cloud on 3 July 1815.

It descended to John Osborne, 11th Duke of Leeds by the time it was put up for auction at Sotheby's in 1961. The New York collector Charles Wrightsman bid £140,000 (equivalent to £3,186,021 in 2020), but the Wolfson Foundation offered £100,000 and the government added a special Treasury grant of £40,000, matching Wrightsman's bid and obtaining the painting for the National Gallery in London, where it was first put on display on 2 August 1961. It was stolen nineteen days later on 21 August 1961 by bus driver Kempton Bunton.[3] Bunton confessed that he took the painting and its frame in July 1965.[4] Following a high-profile trial in which he was defended by Jeremy Hutchinson, QC, Bunton was found not guilty of stealing the painting, but guilty of stealing the frame.[5]

The theft entered popular culture, as it was referenced in the 1962 James Bond film Dr. No. In the film, the painting was on display in Dr. Julius No's lair, suggesting the first Bond villain had stolen the work.[4][6] The prop painted by Ken Adam was used in the film promotion and was then stolen itself.[7]

The story of the theft and the following trial of Bunton was dramatised in the film The Duke directed by Roger Michell and starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, which will be released in cinemas in the UK on 25 February 2022.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Gallery catalogue entry
  2. ^ Kauffmann, Jenkins & Wieseman 2009, pp. 125–127
  3. ^ Iqbal, Nosheen; Jonze, Tim (2020-01-22). "In pictures: The greatest art heists in history". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  4. ^ a b Nairne 2011
  5. ^ Serpell, Nick (14 November 2017). "The QC, Lady Chatterley and nude Romans". BBC News.
  6. ^ Forbes Magazine 2006
  7. ^ Dee, Johnny (17 September 2005). "Licensed to drill". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 10 March 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  8. ^ "The Duke | Sony Pictures Classics".