Heroes and hero worship

The death of Wolfe, 1784 copy by George Roth Jr of the painting by Benjamin West dated 1770. ©NTPL/Matthew Hollow

Following my previous post about Quebec House, I thought it would be interesting to show a few of the objects inspired by General James Wolfe’s death at Quebec. Benjamin West’s painting was very influential in shaping the iconic image of Wolfe expiring just as a messenger brings news of the French defeat.

Section of printed cotton showing the death of Wolfe. ©NTPL/John Hammond

It was widely copied in a variety of formats, even making its way onto toile de Jouy fabric – which presumably in this case was made in England rather than France.

Staffordshire blue and white meat plate depicting the death of Wolfe. ©NTPL/John Hammond

English households could proudly dine off patriotic dinner services and have General Wolfe slowly emerge from beneath the meat and gravy.

©NTPL/John Hammond

The Wolfe brand also extended to the marketing of stirring patriotic songs.

Wolfe's quilted cotton dressing-gown, at Quebec House. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Wolfe relics were reverently preserved, such as this dressing gown that was alledgedly used to transport his body back to England. Wolfiana still sell for high prices at auction, such as the portrait that was knocked down at Bonhams in London recently for more than £400,000.

2 Responses to “Heroes and hero worship”

  1. littleaugury Says:

    Such a wonderful story Emile-and everyday you bring them.That gown seems tiny- No? To be revered on a Staffordshire meat plate- could Wolfe have imagined.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks. I was a bit late with this post today, as I was out of the office.

    The dressing gown is about 135 cm in height, so perhaps not that small, especially for an eighteenth-century person.

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