Sir Sidney Smith. 1802. Mezzotint. 25 1/4 x 17 (plate). Text: 'Robert Ker Porter pinx.t. W.Say sculp.t. London Published as the Act directs, June 19 1802, by John P. Thompson, Printseller to his Majesty and their Royal Highness's the Duke and Duchess of York; Great Newport Street, and No 51, Dean Street, Soho.' Signed, dated and titled in the plate. Vertical stain under the 'S' in Smith; otherwise apparently fine condition. Housed in a stunning 34 x 25 1/2-inch carved, patinated and gilded frame with ormolu corner mounts. $350.00
The portrait shows Commodore Smith at Acre. On his chest is the star of the Order of the Sword.
Sir William Sidney Smith KCB (1764-1840), was a British admiral who aided the Turks in their resistance to Napoleon in Egypt and the Levant. Napoleon Bonaparte said of him, 'That man made me miss my destiny'.
Siege of Acre (1799)
Following Nelson's overwhelming victory at the Battle of the Nile, Smith was sent to the Mediterranean as captain of HMS Tigre, a captured 80-gun French ship of the line which had been brought into the Royal Navy. It was not a purely naval appointment, although he was ordered to place himself under the command of Lord St Vincent, the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean. St Vincent gave him orders as Commodore with permission to take British ships under his command as required in the Levant. He also carried a military and diplomatic mission to Istanbul where his brother was now a Minister Plenipotentiary to the Sublime Porte. The mission's task was to strengthen Turkish opposition to Napoleon and to assist the Turks in destroying the French army stranded in Egypt. This dual appointment caused Nelson, who was the senior officer under St Vincent in the Mediterranean, to resent Smith's apparent superseding of his authority in the Levant. Nelson's antipathy further adversely affected Smith's reputation in naval circles.
Sir Sidney Smith in the Grand Vizier's Tent, 1799 Napoleon, having defeated the Ottoman forces in Egypt, marched north along the Mediterranean coast with 13,000 troops through Sinai and into what was then the Ottoman province of Syria. Here he took control of much of the southern part of the province, representing modern-day Israel and Palestine, and of a single town in today's Lebanon, Tyre. On the way north he captured Gaza and Jaffa with much brutality towards the civilian population, which was not uncommon in the context of the time, and the massacre of captured Turkish soldiers, whom he was unable to take with him or send back to Egypt. Napoleon's army then marched to Acre.
Smith sailed to Acre and helped the Turkish commander Jezzar Pasha reinforce the defences and old walls and supplied him with additional cannon manned by sailors and Marines from his ships. He also used his command of the sea to capture the French siege artillery being sent by ship from Egypt and to deny the French army the use of the coastal road from Jaffa by bombarding the troops from the sea.
Once the siege began in late March 1799, Smith anchored HMS Tigre and Theseus so their broadsides could assist the defence. Repeated French assaults were driven back, several attempts to mine the walls were prevented. By early May, replacement French siege artillery had arrived overland and a breach was forced in the defences. However, the assault was again repelled and Turkish reinforcements from Rhodes were able to land. On 9 May after another fierce bombardment, the final French assault was made. This, too, was repelled and Napoleon began making plans for the withdrawal of his army to Egypt. Shortly after this, Napoleon abandoned his army in Egypt and sailed back to France evading the British ships patrolling the Mediterranean.
Smith attempted to negotiate the surrender and repatriation of the remaining French forces under General Kléber and signed the Convention of El-Arish. However, because of the influence of Nelson's view that the French forces in Egypt should be annihilated rather than allowed to return to France, the treaty was abrogated by Lord Keith who had succeeded St Vincent as commander-in-chief.
The British decided instead to land an army under Sir Ralph Abercromby at Abukir Bay. Smith and Tigre were involved in the training and transport of the landing forces and as liaison with the Turks, but his unpopularity resulted in the loss of his diplomatic credentials and his naval position as Commodore in the eastern Mediterranean. The invasion was successful and the French defeated, although Abercromby was wounded and died soon after the battle. Following this Smith then supported the army under Abercromby's successor John Hely-Hutchinson, which besieged and captured Cairo and finally took the last French stronghold of Alexandria. The French troops were eventually repatriated on terms similar to those previously obtained by Smith in the Convention of El-Arish.
William Say (1768 – 1834) was a prolific English engraver, born in England, Norfolk, Lakenham. In his early twenties, William Say learned mezzotint from James Ward and began to sign plates in 1795, soon becoming recognized as one of the most competent engravers of his generation. Most of his prints are portraits after such contemporary painters as Lawrence, but he also engraved subject pictures after Henry Thompson (1773-1843), among others, and Old Masters, including Rembrandt's painting Young Girl at a Window (1645; London, Dulwich Pict. Gal.). He also added mezzotint to plates for Turner's Liber Studiorum (1807-19). His Queen Caroline after Arthur Devis (O'Donoghue, 11), engraved in 1820, was the first mezzotint engraved on steel rather than copper, and it printed 1200 impressions. In 30 years Say engraved over 330 plates
Robert Ker Porter (1777-1842), noted artist, author, diplomat and traveler. Known today for his accounts of his travels in Spain, Portugal and Russia, he also served as the British consul in Venezuela. Porter visited Spain in 1808 and was invited by Sir John Moore whom he had met previously in Sweden, to accompany the British forces, and the artist witnessed the actions at Benavente, Sahagun and Corunna. He was also one of the earliest panorama painters in Britain producing several significant pieces including the Storming of Seringapatam, the Siege of Acre, The Battle of Lodi, Defeat of the French at the Devil's Bridge, Mont St. Gothard, by Suwarrow, and the Battle of Alexandria. He was knighted for his services to the diplomatic corps. He also exhibited several pictures at the Royal Academy including Death of Sir Philip Sydney in 1792, The Defeat of King Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln in 1793, and the Battle of Northampton in 1796.
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