The face of Nelson
In 2014, in association with Sotheby’s, I identified, researched and negotiated the sale to the Royal Naval Museum Portsmouth of a newly-discovered life mask in plaster of Admiral Lord Nelson.
The mask, discovered in a private collection in the USA, is a finer example with earlier provenance than two other similar masks: one also at RNM, the other at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. The origins of these enigmatic relics, for long thought to be death not life masks, have perplexed and challenged scholars for decades. Previously believed to have been cast in Vienna during Nelson’s overland journey home in 1800, a mss note applied to the reverse of the new-found mask suggests, more plausibly, that the admiral endured the uncomfortable procedure whilst staying with the Hamiltons in Naples in the weeks following the battle of the Nile. No other portrayal of Nelson brings us closer or offers more vivid insight into the human being behind the heroic figure.