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Tuesday
Sep292015

The Battle of Trafalgar drawn after the fact

A lightly edited (by me) description from the website this print was found on: This is a popular print from about 1812. HMS Victory, followed by HMS Temeraire, is at the head of the left-hand column of British ships, which had been sailing for some considerable time into the teeth of the French and Spanish broadsides without being able to fire back. In the French line, just to the right of where HMS Victory's column is aiming, is the French flagship Bucentaure, and behind it the Redoutable. HMS Victory cut in between them and delivered a broadside into the stern and down the length of Bucentaure. Minutes later, a shot from high up on Redoubtable struck Lord Nelson with a fatal wound.

Nelson's enigmatic little sketch formalised into a historic account: mathematical, geometric, correctly military; theory rather than practice.  This is, perhaps, the danger in all writing after the fact. The narrative is clarified, made correct.  It is a design exercise, making a coherent object out of a melée on the sea with cannonballs breaking ships into splinters, people being killed, drowned, wounded.  In this allegedly 'popular' print, the sea is like the table tops of battles between lead soldiers.  By this time, seven years after Trafalgar, the battle had become mythic, as had Nelson.

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