Major-General James Wolfe - English School, 1910
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Overall: 79cm (31in) x 69cm (27in)
Oil on canvas head and shoulders profile portrait of Major-General James Wolfe, Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty’s Forces in the Expedition against Quebec, after the iconic painting J.S.C. Schaak (fl.1759-80) in the National Portrait Gallery (NPG48) collection on loan to the National Trust at Beningfield Hall, Yorkshire. Contained in Edwardian gilt wood frame with offset broken corners inset with rosettes. Canvas size: 55cm (21.5in) x 43cm (17in).
Schaak’s head and shoulders portrait itself derives from the famous full length portrait of Wolfe first exhibited in 1762 and in the collection of the National Army Museum since 2008. Schaak’s full length painting shows Wolfe with outstretched arm pointing the way to the cliff path to the Plains of Abraham on 13 September 1759. Wolfe is shown wearing a tricorne hat and uniform coat adorned with a black crepe band worn on his left arm in mourning for his father Lieutenant-General Edward Wolfe, who died in March 1759. The full length was based on a drawing by Wolfe’s Aide-de-Camp Captain Henry Smith (1734-1811) who fought alongside Wolfe during the Gulf of St. Lawrence Campaign and is pictured holding Wolfe’s right arm in Benjamin West’s famous painting ‘The Death of General Wolfe’. It is said that Schaak’s portrait of Wolfe is one of three that can properly claim to represent a true likeness. In the decades after General Wolfe's death, Schaak’s portrait became the best known image of the nation’s greatest hero until Nelson.
Wolfe reached Halifax, Nova Scotia on 30 April 1759 with a smaller force than had been promised in London. His plan was to attack his French opponent the Marquis de Montcalm, from St Michel, three miles above Quebec, whilst his brigadiers carried out diversionary assaults. This, however, was abandoned and in the early hours of 13 September, having personally reconnoitred the scene, Wolfe landed his troops only two miles above Quebec and by dawn had established his army on the Plains of Abraham. Wolfe was fatally wounded at the outset of the battle though he lived to hear of its success.