An eye-witness view of the battle of Trafalgar by a marine on the Belleisle. Nicolas is also known for his writtenn account of the battle, but has reamined virtually unknown as an artist. The subject is however known to students of Trafalgar as it was the model for the middle work in a trio of pictures of the battle commissioned from the marine painter W.J. Huggins by King William IV, the 'Sailor King', in the 1830s. The last to be completed (in 1837), despite being the second 'scene' in chronological terms, Huggins' painting is almost a direct copy of this Nicolas original, differing only in minor details. Huggins's dated picture provides a post ante quem of 1837 for the present model. It is not known otherwise whether Nicolas painted his watercolour immediately after the battle, or some years after the event. It was first published in an undated late nineteenth century publication Nelson and His Times by Rear-Admiral Lord Charles Beresford & H.W. Wilson, p.225, where it was described as the property of Lieut.-Colonel Snell of South Norwood.
The caption on the frame records that the subject shows the position of the fleets at 4.30pm on the day of the battle and that the principal vessel in the centre is Lord Collingwood's disfigured flagship Royal Sovereign.
Lieutenant Paul Harris Nicolas became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Marines on 6 July 1805, was promoted Lieutenant on 27 July 1808 and was placed on half-pay (effectively retired) in September 1814. He served in the 74-gun Belleisle at Trafalgar, under Captain William Hargood, and is known to have produced at least one other watercolour of the battle showing the position of his own ship at 1.00pm.; Belleisle was so badly damaged by enemy fire that she eventually had to be towed out of the action by the frigate Naiad.
After Trafalgar, Nicolas also saw action in the attack on the Basque Roads in 1810 and survived to receive the Naval General Service medal with two clasps in 1848. One of his brothers was Sir N.H. Nicolas, G.C.M.G., the compiler of the monumental work which published all Lord Nelson's extant letters and despatches in the 1840s.