Neptune Resigning to Britannia the Empire of the Sea by William Dyce. 1846. A scheme for a fresco at Osborne House, still to be seen on the wall above the stairwell. This work is an oil painting on paper laid down on board. 32 by 49cm., 12½ by 19¼in. It was originally presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1847 (details from Sotheby's entry). Photograph by courtesy of Sotheby's, originally downloaded by George Landow. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

According to the Sotheby's entry for the work,

The Italianate villa style of Osborne had initially inspired Dyce to choose a theme from Boccaccio for his fresco but his patrons preferred a subject depicting Neptune and his retinue presenting his crown and other wealthy gifts to the allegorical figure of Britannia, due to the proximity of the sea. Dyce remained inspired by Italian art and borrowed elements from the work of Raphael in his design, specifically from the decorations at the Villa Farnesina in Rome. The tritons blowing conch-bugles and leading the Hippocampi that draw Neptune’s chariot, are very similar to figures in the Rome ceiling.

As far as the general effect goes, nothing could better illustrate the British pride in the Royal Navy in these years, despite the difficulties in funding it. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert took a particular interest in the navy. — Jacqueline Banerjee

Links to Related Material


"Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art/Lot 37." Web. 19 January 2024.

Created 25 October 2018

Last modified 19 January 2024