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Maritime, Collectible, Folk Art, Lifesaver Souvenir, H.M.S. Victory, Lord Nelson, Antique Photograph


J.W. Mills (maker)
Souvenir of HMS Victory
Portsea Island, England: 1st Quarter 20th C.
Sepia photograph in painted lifesaver-form wooden frame
8.75 inches diameter, framed

Souvenir photograph of HMS Victory in a lifesaver-form frame decorated with hand-painted illustrations of the Union Jack and the ship’s name. The lifesaver is further decorated with a ring of rope attached by canvas strips at four points, as issued. The Victory is the most celebrated vessel in British naval history due to its key role in the British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, as the flagship of naval hero Vice-Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson (1758-1805), who died aboard ship shortly after the battle ended.

Product Description Continues Below


Victory was moored in Portsmouth Harbor from 1812 until 1922, when it was moved to a dry dock in the Portsmouth Royal Navy Dockyard for the next seven years to be restored. This framed photograph apparently was taken prior to 1922, when the ship was still anchored in the harbor. The back of the frame bears the label of J.W. Mills, Picture Frame Maker and Printseller, located in Landport, a district located near the center of Portsea Island, which is part of the city of Portsmouth, England. This suggests that it was made for sale to tourists, naval personnel or visiting sailors at Portsmouth. The format and painting on the lifesaver is nonetheless typical of commemorative sailor folk art.

The HMS Victory was built in 1765 then underwent several modifications before beginning its service career as part of the Royal Navy fleet in 1778. During the Napoleonic Wars, the ship succeeded in crippling the French flagship Bucentaure at the Battle of Trafalgar. Lord Nelson died of wounds received during the battle and the ship brought his body back to England where he became one of only five non-royal Britons — including the Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill — to have been given a state funeral. Today the HMS Victory is still a commissioned warship and is operated as an attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard by the National Museum of the Royal Navy. A comprehensive restoration project costing 16 million GBP began in December 2011. Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery, its commanding officer, noted then: “HMS Victory is an icon for the Royal Navy and the nation as a whole.”


Condition: Frame generally very good with the usual overall light handling, wear, toning, soiling, warping. Wear, toning, soiling, and deterioration to rope and canvas attachments. Photograph a bit toned, some sun fading, but still sound with strong image.


“88 Years in the History of HMS Victory.” History Today. 12 January 2010. (24 April 2012).

“History.” HMS Victory. (20 April 2012).

Watson, Leon. “Nelson Would Be Pleased! HMS Victory to be restored in £16M programme, MoD announces.” Mail Online. 2 December 2011. (24 April 2012).