Admiral Lord Nelson Silver Tribute Plaque, Circa 1806
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44mm x 77mm
An extremely fine and extremely rare rectangular plaque in silver commemorating Admiral Lord Nelson; the relief panel centered on a wreathed bust of the naval hero on a sarcophagus, over a battle honour scroll bearing the names Nile, Copenhagen, Trafalgar, flanked by figures of winged Fame with fanfare trumpet amid clouds, a crocodile at her feet, referencing the 1798 victory at Aboukir Bay, and mourning Britannia armed with a Union Jack shield and with the British lion at her feet, in the distance the stern of H.M.S. Victory. Signed lower right ‘P. WYON. F’[ecit].
The present repoussé work plaque was created by the noted Birmingham medallist and dye engraver Peter Wyon (1797-1822) in the months following Nelson’s death at Trafalgar. It is the original trial sample for a design that was afterwards incorporated into a small number of silver or silver-gilt snuffboxes. The existence of three silver snuffboxes containing plaques of this design are known - one dated 1806 in the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth; one of similar date in an English private collection, and the third bearing late hallmarks for London 1812.
Peter Wyon was a member of highly regarded family of dye-engravers, being the second son of George Wyon III, and brother of Thomas Wyon I, George Wyon IV, and James Wyon I. Around 1796, he went into business in Birmingham with his brother Thomas, as a general dye-engraver, but in 1800 Thomas moved to London, leaving Peter to begin a close association with the renowned Soho Mint and its proprietor the Birmingham industrialist and Nelson admirer Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) who distributed some 15,000 Trafalgar Medals at his own expense to participants in the battle. Accordingly it is not beyond reason to suggest that the present relief plaque was produced to Boulton’s order as part of an exclusive commission, possibly for distribution amongst his own friends and possibly those of Nelson as well.