This sculpture is not your run of the mill tribute to Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805.)
Located at the rear of the Town Hall in Castle Street, Liverpool is a large open courtyard called Exchange Flags. The statue, taking centre stage, was commissioned in 1809 and unveiled in 1813.
Admiral Nelson was regarded as one of Britain’s finest heroes and many statues have been erected commemorating his life and achievements. Most of these tend to be quite formal, like the one in Trafalgar Square, London, however this monument, whilst not unique in style, is described as being an idealised version in the neo-classical style.
The thing that strikes me about the piece is that it is capturing a moment in time.
It is designed to celebrate Nelson’s four greatest victories.
- Cape St Vincent, against Spain.
- The Nile, against France.
- Copenhagen, against Denmark and Norway.
- Trafalgar, against France and Spain.
The victories are exemplified by
- Four shackled prisoners around the base, their chains being held securely in the mouth of the British Lion.
- Four captured flags of the nations fought (Spain, France, Denmark and Norway.) One of these flags is being lowered onto Nelson in order to conceal his missing right arm
- The female figure, representing Victory, is placing a fourth crown onto Nelson’s sword.
At the rear of the statue is a forlorn Britannia (forlorn pigeon included at no extra cost.) She is holding a laurel wreath and Nelson’s medals.
Finally, the bony hand stretching out from under a flag. The skeleton signifies death and is reaching out, indicating he died at the moment of his final victory at Trafalgar.
It’s this reaching out, along with the placing of the fourth crown, that leads me to believe that the designer wanted to, not only celebrate Nelson, but depict this pivotal moment in history.
“England expects that every man will do his duty”
HMS Victory, Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805
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