Olga's Gallery

Olga's Gallery

December 01, 2001
Dear Friends of Art,

During the last fortnight we have published the works of Francisco de Goya, the greatest Spanish artist. Portraiture was one of Goya's favorite genres, he left us numerous portraits of his contemporaries, and among them are 4 portraits of

The Duke of Wellington

The only British sitter of the great artist. Two of the portraits are in oil and 2 are pencil drawings. Of those in oil, one is the large equestrian portrait (now in Wellington's Museum, Apsley House, London) and another is the bust portrait from the National Gallery, London. Not all art historians consider the third widely known painting of Wellington with hat and cloak (National Gallery, Washington, DC) to be one of Goya's works.

Of the two paintings, the bust portrait is thought to be the most likely to have been painted from life. It was probably executed in August 1812 during the British commander's short stay in Madrid, at the same time as the equestrian composition, when Sir Arthur Wellesley was still Earl of Wellington and Lieutenant General, the chief commander of the British army in the Peninsula. On this ceremonial portrait Wellington is wearing a full military costume. Some of the decorations that he wears were received after he left Madrid in 1812. The alterations are believed to have been made in May 1814, when Wellington returned to Spain as Ambassador to Ferdinand VII.
There are so many interesting books and web sites devoted to the Duke of Wellington that it seems there is nothing else to add, especially in a short newsletter. We managed to come upon a document, written by Sir Arthur Wellesley, approximately during the period when he sat for Goya, which characterizes “the silent, unsmiling” commander, quite unexpectedly, as a man with a good sense of humor.

Message from Sir Arthur Wellesley, Earl of Wellington, to the British Foreign Office in London, written in Spain, August 1812


Whilst marching from Portugal to a position, which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests, which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty's Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.
Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and nine pence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion's petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty's Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:

1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or perchance.

2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

Your most obedient servant,


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