The Battle of Copenhagen was an engagement which saw a British fleet under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker defeat a Danish-Norwegian fleet anchored just off Copenhagen on 2 April 1801. Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson led the main attack. He famously disobeyed Parker's order to withdraw by holding his telescope to his blind eye so that he could not see the signal, destroying many of the Danish-Norwegian ships.
The drawing is a study for the finished watercolour which was in the collection of Sir Bruce Ingram. The bust on the right represents Nelson that on the left the Earl St Vincent (Sir John Jervis) who was first Lord of the Admiralty at the time. The allegorical figures on the left bear the title Hispani and Nile respectively, presumably referring to Jervis's defeat of the Spaniards at Cape St Vincent in 1797 and Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile, 1798.
The ship on the right is presumably Sir Thomas Foley's Elephant, 74. Nelson stands on the poop, apparently showing a sheet of paper to someone beside him while a lieutenant behind hails another officer in the boat below. Presumably this refers to Nelson's famous proposal of truce to 'the brothers of Englishmen, the Danes', which he wrote in a break at the height of the action and then sent ashore to the Crown Prince of Denmark; this called a halt to enable the Danes to rescue the wounded and Nelson to regroup, and was subsequently extended into a full ceasefire.
We are grateful to Pieter van der Merwe and Jan Piggott for their help in preparing this catalogue entry.