Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Fine and Decorative Art and Design

First Advisor

Elizabeth Pergam

Second Advisor

Ann-Marie Richard


The failed siege attempt by French and Spanish forces on the British stronghold at Gibraltar from 1779 to 1783 provided several episodes of national commemoration for the defenders. This thesis focuses on three such paintings which take place at the end of their respective battles. In the first chapter, Gibraltar relieved by Sir George Rodney, 1780 by Dominic Serres idealizes victorious British might personified by the commander George Rodney. It serves to assure the possibility of British victory under competent command at a moment during the uncertain time of war. The second chapter focuses on John Singleton Copley’s Destruction of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, a highly celebrated event. Rather than showcase the garrisons’ victory, Copley focuses on the widespread enemy suffering resulting from conflict. Likewise, the third chapter highlights John Trumbull’s Sortie Made by the Garrison at Gibraltar which heroizes a gesture of aid to a small group of enemy combatants in the aftermath of conflict. The thesis argues that the latter two paintings constitute an idealization of tender action resulting from sympathy. This behavior subverts the common embellishment of active command in battle paintings exemplified in chapter one.