The final installment in my little series, answering the question: what did
Nelson look like?

This one will be looking at his two life masks, done in 1800, and his wax effigy made in 1806, starting with the former.
There are two masks in existance: one with eyes open, and one with eyes closed. These were both done in Vienna in 1800, during Nelson and the Hamiltons' overland journey back to the UK from Italy. They were made for a bust which was to be made by Thaller and Ranson.

These were mistaken for death masks, but  now we know for certain that they were indeed made while he was very much alive. So alive that he needed straws up his nose so he could breathe while the plaster set! Silly-looking, but necessary!

The one pictured to the left, we'll call it Mask One, is very obviously, the eyes closed one- which looks a little creepy because he has no eyelashes.
 Nevertheless, out of the two, it is this one which should be looked at more when considering what Nelson looked like. This is because Mask Two would have been worked on in order to have the eyes open, and there are a few little differences between them both. So this one is slightly more reliable.

The only significant difference, which, annoyingly, you can't see because in this image the wrong side of Nelson's face is illuminated (and frustratingly this appears to be the only image of the second mask available to us), is that Mask One shows the end of Nelson's eyebrow missing and the scar tissue that was
in it's place (from Nelson's eye wound in Corsica), whereas Mask Two Mask Two doesn't.

But what do these masks tell us?
 They support what quite a few of the portraits show, and what some of the accounts say.
 In some portraits such as the ones by William Beechy and Schmidt, show Nelson's right, blinded, eye being smaller than the left one. This is shown in both life masks.
 It also supports the general physical characteristic of Nelson's face- it can be clearly seen that he had quite a sizey, rounded nose, prominent eyelids, curved eyebrows, full lips, especially the bottom one, a sloping forehead, and a lined and thin face.

The only problem with the life masks is said by Beechy, whose portrait was also accurate, who said that the bust made by Thaller and Ranson, which was based on the masks, was "deficient" because "he pursed up his chin and screwed up his features when the plaster was poured on it, the nose is very like and so is the mouth, the chin not at all, the latter was thin and flat, in the bust it is pointed; the breadth of the face is like but too thin..."
 I think that speaks for itself.

Despite this, the masks are probably the most reliable image of Nelson there are, giving an accurate view of his face and features.

Finally, the effigy of Nelson, made in 1806 by Catherine Andras, so realistic that Emma Hamilton herself cried upon seeing it, offering to rearrange it's hair so that it was a perfect portrayal of the recently deceased Nelson,  probably the closest you can ever get to really seeing the long-dead hero.

All I can say is: I. Want. To. See. It.

Andras had the extreme honour to be asked to create the effigy after the success of a wax profile of Nelson which she had previously made, after sittings with the Admiral.
 As you can tell the pose was based a lot on the Hoppner portrait, even to the fact that he was leaning on a big rock. 
 The hair is a greyish-brown and the face looks exactly like the life masks. The forehead, although, it can't be seen in this image because of the lock of Nelson's hair (which is placed apparently how Nelson wore it), has the inverted 'V' shape scar, and slight scarring at the end of the eyebrow. 
 It was placed in Westminster Abbey, and is still there today.

Apparently, Emma, when asked, said that it most resmebled Nelson  "in the direction and form of the nose, mouth, and chin, that the general carriage of the body was exactly his, and that altogether the likeness was so great that it was impossible for anybody who had known him to doubt about or mistake it."

Did I mention that I'm dying to see it?

Here's a close up of the profile.

So, here ends my "What Did Nelson Look Like" series!

Which image is the most life like? 
 Of course my choice is the wax effigy by Catherine Andras!!! The closest thing to Nelson himself!
 And the winning portrait, in terms of facial accuracy, has to be, and I can't believe I'm saying this, the Guzzardi portrait!
 For everything else, I think the top five (in no particular order) are: Hoppner's, Beechey's and Abbott's (both of which were not featured individually for lack of time!), Lucy's and De Koster's.

I'd love to hear your views on the images too! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

6/26/2012 07:14:08

Great series Rae-Rae! But seriously... the Guzzardi portrait!? I can't believe you're saying it either! I can't even look at it, that's how bad it is (lol)!

Anyway, my own irrelevant opinions aside, this really puts my stuff to shame! From now on, I will write looooooong, detailed articles with many many many pictures and quotes attached!

Keep up the great work!
Rosie :)

7/3/2012 09:34:49

Puts your work to shame? Sooo not true! :P But looking forward to loads of detailed articles form you!

8/8/2012 15:44:57

Great Blog!
I like it.

8/9/2012 05:04:23

Thank you! :)

8/21/2012 15:01:37

Greatly admire your mission, Rae Rae !
It is wonderful to view the face of the man who undoubtedly changed the course of history .He has always been my hero since childhood when his name first assailed my ears .
A great deal depends on the quality and zeal of the initial teaching.First impressions must be positive and are vital to stimulating and firing a young schoolchild's imagination
I fear you have an uphill struggle ahead to promote Nelson in today's multi cultural Britain .It appears to me to be considered politically incorrect to extol the virtues of colonialism and the characters which made Britain great .
It is my fear that when France finally succumbs to Islamic Republic status Britain will not have the required genitalia to oppose French moves to have Trafalgar Square consgined to the annals of unacceptable history ..
This is the view of an outsider of 42 years of SE Asia expat status looking in.
Mike Day

8/30/2012 08:11:21

Thank you very much for your comment! It was an interesting perspective.

Indeed you are right, Britain today is so afraid of being "politically incorrect" that she no longer celebrates her own heroes! Nelson has come to symbolise the days of sail, and if he's forgotten then the world he lived in, and the noble seamen who fought with him, are forgotten too. I think Britain's naval power played a key role in making Britain what it is today, yet I fear not many of the youth of today are even aware that the Royal Navy was once the supreme power on the seas. I don't understand why we are so embarrassed by our own history. It was once a huge part of our identity as a nation!


Your comment will be posted after it is approved.

Leave a Reply.


    Hi there! I am second in command here at HMSH!
     My name is Rae-Rae and and I live in Worcestershire in the UK.
     I am a teen Nelson enthusiast and my passion has lasted since I was only nine- over seven years!
     I aim (rather ambitiously!) to rekindle the love of Nelson and his Navy for the younger generations and make him a well-known hero again. I want his memory never to fade!
     Please do check my YouTube channel for any Nelson-related videos, as I do post on there from time to time!


    November 2012
    October 2012
    September 2012
    August 2012
    July 2012
    June 2012