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    Sale 12580


    26 October 2016, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 49



    Price Realised  


    On an alabaster plinth carved with a commemorative inscription, on a later painted wood pedestal
    The vase - 44 ½ in. (113 cm.) high, 29 in. (73.5 cm.) wide; the plinth - 31 ½ in. (80 cm.) high

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    The Trafalgar Urn is a relic of the remarkable relationship between Nelson and his agent, and closest civilian friend, Alexander Davison (1750-1829). The two men had met in 1782, and as Nelson's fame grew, Davison increasingly took charge of his friend's business and domestic affairs. Davison was appointed Nelson's prize agent after the battle of the Nile in 1798 and again after the battle of Copenhagen three years later. This profitable appointment gave Davison the funds to fashion a spectacular art collection comprised of works from leading artists of the day. A highlight of the collection was John Singleton Copley’s masterpiece The Death of the Earl of Chatham, now in the collection of the Tate Gallery, London. Following Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar, Davison erected an obelisk on his estate in Northumberland: 'to the memory of private friendship'. A similar sentiment prompted the ordering of an urn - a replica of the celebrated Warwick Vase -adorned with three panels depicting a relief carving of HMS Victory; a cartouche of laurel wreaths; and a seated figure of Britannia with a lion. The fourth panel is dedicated to 'the immortal memory of his friend', the inscription reading:

    'HORATIO / VISCOUNT NELSON KB / Commander in Chief in the / Mediterranean / Fell in the discharging of his Duty / Off Trafalgar in the moment of Victory. / 21 October 1805 / ALEXANDER DAVISON consecrates / this Urn as a tribute of respect to the Immortal Memory of / His Friend'

    The urn remained in Davison’s townhouse until he was imprisoned for fraud in 1809. On his release, with most of his fortune consumed in the fight for his release, Davison was forced to sell much of his art collection. 'The Entire Property of Alexander Davison, Esq.' comprised almost a thousand lots and took fourteen days to sell at St. James's Square in April-May 1817 and the present urn was listed as lot 714:

    'A SUPERB STATUARY TWO-HANDLED URN (to the Memory of the late LORD NELSON) on a pedestal 7 feet high, richly ornamented in EMBLEMATIC DEVICES, and surmounted by the figures of NEPTUNE, AMPHITRITE'

    Following the 1817 sale, the vase subsequently disappeared from sight for almost two hundred years before it was rediscovered in 2005.

    Special Notice

    Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a filled square not collected from Christie’s by 5.00 pm on the day of the sale will, at our option, be removed to Cadogan Tate. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at Christies.com/storage and our fees for storage are set out in the table. These will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. If the lot is transferred to Cadogan Tate, it will be available for collection from 12 noon on the second business day following the sale. If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00am to 5.00pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.


    Alexander Davison Esq., St. James's Square, sold 21 April 1817, lot 715.
    'Trafalgar: Nelson and the Napoleonic Wars', Sotheby's, London, 5 October 2005, lot 104.

    Pre-Lot Text