Original copper plate engraved by James Heath showing the portrait of Nelson taken from the original portrait by Lemuel Francis Abbott Portrait of The Right Hon Lord Nelson KB Vice Admiral of the Blue. Engraved by James Heath Historical Engaver to his Majesty, from an original Picture painted by Lemuel Abbott

Portrait of The Right Hon Lord Nelson KB Vice Admiral of the Blue
The Original Copper Plate and an Original Print

Engraved by James Heath Historical Engaver to his Majesty, from an original Picture painted by Lemuel Abbott in the possession of John Mc Arthur Esq.  Published January 26th 1801 by James Heath No 15 Russell Place, Fitzroy Square. Thompson, Newport Street. Colnaght, Cockspur Street & Macklin, Fleet Street.  42cm x 33cm.

The painter Lemuel Francis Abbott was probably born in Leicestershire in 1761, the son of the Reverend Lemuel Abbott.  He studied under Francis Hayman (1708-1776) and possibly also Joseph Wright of Derby.  By 1780 he had a thriving portrait practice in London, and is famous for his portrait of Horatio Nelson, 1st Vicount Nelson (currently hanging in the Terracotta Room in 10 Downing Street) and for those of other naval officers and literary figures of the 18th century.  In 1798, the year in which he was an unsuccessful candidate for Associateship of the Royal Academy, Abbott began to suffer from mental instability, allegedly as a result of his failure to keep up with his work and because of domestic disquiet. He was attended in his illness by the physician to King George III, Dr Thomas Munroe (1759 – 1833), the chief physician to Bethlem Hospital. Abbott died in London in 1802.

Very few original copper plates have survived from the engraving period.  Presumably most of these copper plates would have eventually been melted down for the copper.  The above is certainly a rare survivor.

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