I’ve been living with the Duke of Wellington for nigh on thirty years now – reading about him, researching him and, perhaps most fun, collecting items associated with him. The first portrait of the Duke I ever bought is pictured at right. If you can believe it, I stumbled upon it in a thrift store in Florida and paid just $99 for it. Afterwards, I brought a photo of it with me to London and took it to Grosvenor Prints in Seven Dials and asked the gentleman there what he thought it was worth. He hemmed and hawed on giving me an appraisal without actually seeing the piece, but did tell me that mine was one of a series of eight engravings done shortly after the Duke’s death to commemorate the high points thereof. My engraving shows the Duke being installed as Chancellor of Oxford University and the frame is rosewood. When I told the man how much, or how little, I’d paid for the piece, he peered at me over the top of his glasses and said, “Madam, you got yourself a bargain.”
The next portrait I bought was this reproduction of Thomas Phillips’s 1814 painting of the Duke. Unfortunately, there isn’t an amusing story attached to this purchase, just ordered it through the mail, took it to be framed and matted and hung it above my fireplace. I must say, though, Artie looks tres festive when wreathed in garland at the holidays! My father bought the pheasant at an auction decades ago and when he returned home with it, both my mother and myself thought he was crazy. However, now I’m ever so glad he found it, as it’s so veddy Victorian in appearance and goes quite well on the mantle, non?
On a subsequent trip to London, I returned to Grosvenor Prints and spent quite a few hours perusing their Duke of Wellington stock, finally choosing this engraving because it seemed to match the first engraving in size and subject composition. It’s a contemporary engraving of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s 1821 portrait of the Duke, with Copenhagen’s head visible in the lower left corner. I had it matted and framed to match the first engraving.