Admiral Lord Nelson's campaign to bring the French fleet to action and annihilate it proved both long and frustrating. By August 1805, Admiral Villeneuve had managed to combine the Spanish fleet with his own to bring a total of thirty-three ships-of-the-line under his command and facing Nelson with a formidable task when the two fleets finally sighted each other off Cape Trafalgar on the morning of 21st October 1805. To compensate for his lack of numerical superiority with only twenty-seven capital ships, Nelson had evolved his famous plan to break the enemy line of battle in two places, a radical departure from the more conventional tactics of the day. Nelson himself led the Weather Column in Victory whilst Vice-Admiral Collingwood spearheaded the Lee Column in Royal Sovereign.
Battle was joined just before noon when the French Fougeux opened fire and although Royal Sovereign reached the enemy line first, Victory broke through astern of the French flagship Bucentaure soon afterwards. Brackman has depicted the moment of breakthrough as Victory's opening port broadside smashes into Bucentaure's stern galleries and sweeps along the length of her gundecks causing huge damage and heavy loss of life.
For another painting of this scene but from a different perspective, also by David Brackman, see lot 485 in our Maritime Sale on 26th May 2004.