About this artwork

This painting and its companion, ‘The Battle of Alexandria’, commemorate a turning point in an early campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, following the French occupation of Egypt and consequent threat to the security of British India. An army commanded by General Abercromby forced a landing at Aboukir Bay and defeated the French at nearby Alexandria two weeks later. The artist, De Loutherbourg, was not present at these events, but he used detailed eye-witness descriptions to create an accurate image of the action. The painting contains several recognisable portraits of senior officers: the standing figure in the boat to the left is Sir Sidney Smith; the dominant figure in the central boat with his arm outstretched is Major-General Coote. Abercromby himself is not depicted in this scene.

Philip James de Loutherbourg

Philip James de Loutherbourg

De Loutherbourg was born in Strasbourg, the son of a miniature painter and engraver. He trained in France, specialising in landscape painting, and he was subsequently made painter to Louis XIV. In 1771 he came to England at the invitation of the actor-manager, David Garrick and painted spectacular sets for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. His interest in technical innovation led to the 'Eidophusikon', a precursor of the cinema using transparent images and light effects. He was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, to which he was elected in 1781. As well as dramatic landscapes, he produced history paintings and published prints recording his tours of picturesque scenery in England and Wales.