Frank O. Salisbury RI, ROI, RP (British, 1874-1962) Large preparatory portrait of Jack Cornwell

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Lot 97AR W
Frank O. Salisbury RI, ROI, RP
(British, 1874-1962)
Large preparatory portrait of Jack Cornwell

Sold for £ 22,500 (US$ 28,657) inc. premium
Frank O. Salisbury RI, ROI, RP (British, 1874-1962)
Large preparatory portrait of Jack Cornwell
signed with monogram (lower right) and inscribed 'SIZE OF LARGE PICTURE/BEING GOOD/BOY CORNWELL CARTON/1914-1915' (on the reverse)
charcoal and pastel
271 x 151.5cm (106 11/16 x 59 5/8in).


  • John Travers Cornwell more popularly known as 'Jutland Jack' is one of the most famous recipients of the Victoria Cross. Awarded Britain's highest order for military bravery at the age of 16, Cornwell became the youngest sailor ever to be decorated with the award and in doing so became a celebrated heroic figure.

    Cornwell joined the Royal Navy in the summer of 1915 and was trained as sight-setter, responsible for calibrating and adjusting the range of a naval gun using a brass wheel attached to the gun mounting. At the beginning of May 1916 Cornwell was assigned to the light cruiser HMS Chester and within a month Cornwell was deployed at the Battle of Jutland.

    Fought between the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet off the coast of Denmark, the battle was the largest naval engagement of the First World War. The battle ended indecisively with no clear conclusion as to the battle's victors. The Royal Navy lost nearly twice as many ships and men as the German Imperial Navy but the Grand Fleet still remained at sea and the German Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer's plan to destroy a substantial part of the British fleet proved largely unsuccessful and the Royal Navy's continued numerical advantage led to a change of tactics from the German Navy and the dramatic increase in unrestricted submarine warfare.

    During the battle Cornwell was stationed as part of a ten man gun crew towards the Chester's bow, the ship was hammered by German shellfire and hit seventeen times. By the end of the battle all but two members of Cornwell's gun crew were dead or seriously wounded. Jack was found severely wounded by shrapnel but still standing resolutely at his post awaiting further orders. He died shortly afterwards and his body returned home where his mother, not having enough money for a funeral, buried him in a shared common grave.

    A month later an article was reported in the Daily Sketch calling for Jack Conrwell to be re-buried with full military honours as befitting the boy hero, the origins of the article are unclear but the reaction to it was profound. Cornwell's body was exhumed and re-buried in Manor Park Cemetery in a coffin draped with the Union flag in a ceremony presided over by the local Bishop. Cornwell's coffin was accompanied by members of the Chester's crew alongside members of the Scouts movement and pupils from Cornwell's old school. The epitaph on his grave reads "It is not wealth or ancestry but honourable conduct and a noble disposition that maketh men great."

    On November 16th 1916 Cornwell's mother received his posthumous Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace and following his funeral seven million portraits of Cornwell were purchased by children across the British Empire to raise money for the newly created Royal Star and Garter Home for injured servicemen in Richmond.

    A proportion of the proceeds were used to pay for the commission of a portrait of Jack Cornwell standing at his post and the Court painter Frank O'Salisbury, one of the most celebrated and famous artists of his age, was selected to paint the work. Frank O'Salisbury used Jack's brother George as the model for the painting. The finished painting was presented to the Admiralty on the 23rd March 1917 and now hangs in the Royal Navy's training centre HMS Raleigh. The present lot is a full scale preparatory study for the painting and depicts one of the most remembered and commemorated moments of individual heroic gallantry of the First World War.
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