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On 19 May 1798, Napoleon sailed from Toulon on his hazardous adventure to Egypt, capturing Malta on the way. On 1 August, Nelson sighted Alexandria, with its harbour full of shipping and saw French flags, although none belonged to ships of the line. The French battle fleet was subsequently sighted anchored in Aboukir Bay, 15 miles east of Alexandria, by the British ship 'Zealous'. Nelson, in his flagship 'Vanguard' immediately headed there and launched an immediate, late-afternoon attack on the anchored enemy in what subsequently became a devastating night action.
In the far background between the 'Conquérant' and the 'Spartiate' is the stern of Nelson's 'Vanguard' in starboard-quarter view. The French ships on the left are partially obscured by the British ships anchored on the viewer's side. On the extreme left, the British 'Audacious' masks the French 'Guerrier'. In the right foreground is another boat and beyond this, masking the stern of 'L'Orient' and the bows of the 'Tonnant' is the British 'Alexander'. Of the 13 French ships of the line and four frigates which were at anchor in Aboukir Bay, only two of the ships of the line escaped with two frigates. Of the rest nine were taken, three burnt and one sunk.
oil on canvas
H 121.9 x W 182.8 cm