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How a Swedish artist came to paint an Ottoman Admiral...

April 3, 2023

ANDERS GUSTAF ANDERSSON (SWEDISH 1780 - 1833)
A miniature portrait of Admiral Ismael Gibraltar
Watercolour on ivory, 7.5 x 6.5cm
Indistinctly signed and dated 1818
Inscribed on a panel (partially cut) verso indistinctly 'Ism.., Killed at Navar (Navarino)'

Ismael Gibraltar was an Ottoman admiral and emissary to Muhammad Ali, pasha and viceroy of Egypt. Active during the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829), Ali gave Gibraltar command of the Egyptian squadron which joined the fleet of Nasuhzade Ali Pasha.

Before the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, Gibraltar was sent on diplomatic missions as Ali’s representative. One of his missions took him to Sweden, which, though not officially documented, is likely to have been when Anders Gustaf Andersson (1780-1833) had the chance to create this portrait in 1818; another Swedish portraitist, Johan Gustaf Sandberg, also created a miniature portrait of Gibraltar between 1817-1819.

Having trained and worked as a professional painter, Andersson had turned to miniature portrait painting five years into his painting career under the guidance of Lorentz Svensson Sparrgren. Influences from Domenico Bossi, an Italian miniature portraitist highly regarded in Sweden, are clearly visible in Andersson’s work.

There is no verified account of Gibraltar’s death – it has been attributed both to disease and military encounters. The panel at the back of the portrait is inscribed faintly with ‘Killed in Navar’ which may refer to a naval engagement, the Battle of Navarino, which took place on 20th October 1827. This battle saw the decimation of Turkish and Egyptian troops by the Greeks who were allied with Britain, Russia, and France. As an Ottoman admiral, it is entirely plausible that Gibraltar was killed at this battle, however, no official record exists.

This article was written by Kitty Astor, 2023

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Stuart Cole
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Written by:
Stuart Cole
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