LONDON, ENGLAND.-A bronze cast of the hands of one of England's greatest military generals; the 1st Duke of Wellington ©Jonathan Evans A bronze cast of the hands of one of England’s greatest military generals is a new addition to the basement gallery at Apsley House, the 1st Duke of Wellington’s London home.
A new loan to English Heritage from a private owner, the cast of the Duke’s hands made at the time of his death will sit alongside Wellington’s death mask, which is already on show in the basement gallery. Revealing the Victorians’ fascination with the macabre, it was characteristic for death masks and casts to be taken as mementos of the nation’s famous and infamous. Made as a funeral souvenir and manufactured by Elkington, the bronze cast of the hero’s hands is one of only two known to exist and joins the impressive collections on display.
Another new exhibit to the house is a coloured print of The Army and Navy which imaginatively portrays the only meeting between England’s two greatest commanders of the Napoleonic wars, Nelson at sea and Wellington on land. The artist J P Knight was motivated to create The Army and Navy canvas following a chance meeting, which occurred while both Nelson and Wellington were waiting to see Lord Castlereagh on 12 September 1805.
Following his victory over Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington made London’s Apsley House his home; now owned by English Heritage, and with the Wellington family still in residence, the property is the capital’s last great aristocratic town house.
Initially built for the Earl of Bathurst, Apsley House was the first house encountered after passing the toll gates at the top of Knightsbridge and became widely known as ‘No. 1 London’. Visitors to the property will enjoy its outstanding collections of paintings, porcelain, silver, sculpture, furniture, medals and memorabilia, which remain largely intact.
In addition to the many aspects of the first Duke of Wellington’s life and work, which are on view in Apsley House, it is his amazing art collection that is most famous. Hung throughout the first floor are works by Velazquez, Goya, Rubens and Van Dyck. Many of the paintings originally formed part of the Spanish Royal Collection and came into possession of the duke after the battle of Vitoria in 1813. A colossal nude statue of Napoleon by Canova dominates the stairwell at the centre of the house.