1766 - 1839
The Passing of the Sword

Oil on canvas
Image size: 15 x 20 inches (38 x 51 cm)
Period style hand made frame


Please scroll down for more information and a framed image.

The figure on the righthand side is HRH, the Prince Frederick Augustus, the Duke of York and Albany who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Army from 1798 to 1809. He was obliged to stand down because of a scandal, but was reinstated in 1811 and held this post until 1827. Here, he wears the Order of the Garter on his breast and the uniform itself is likely to represent that of the 1st Foot Guards of which he was a colonel of from 1805 to his death.

The man in blue on the left is dressed as an officer of a British Light Dragoon regiment, note the collection of silver decoration that he wears across his chest. He is likely to be Francis Rawdon, the Major-General Moira. The Earl of Moira commanded a force, that included one squadron of the 14th Light Dragoons, that was sent to Ostend in June 1794, to provide reinforcements for the Duke of York. The Duke was returning through Brabant to Flanders and was nearly surrounded by the superior forces of the French. Arriving with 10,000 troops the Earl of Moira marched across the country and by skilful movements in the face of much danger, and under great hardships, effected a junction with the Duke and extricated him from his perilous position. He was advanced in rank to major-general.

This artwork commemorates Moira’s efforts to the King and his country. It is clear that his actions are being recognised; the Duke of York  presenting him with this sword is an notable honour. Just in front of him a boy, likely to be his mischievous son, tries on his father’s Tarleton helmet. The inclusion of this boy and a women, whom we can assume is Moira’s wife,  illustrates the ceremonial nature of this artwork as this pair would certainly not have been present in reality when Moira and the Duke of York met.

The Artist

Singleton was born in London in 1766, part of an artistic family. He was raised by his uncle, a pupil of Ozias Humphrey, and he was working as a professional artist by the age of 16. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1783 and exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1784 until his death.

In 1793 Singleton received an important commission to paint a large portrait group of The Royal Academicians in General Assembly (1795), which shows the Academicians in the Council Room at Somerset House. Charles Bestland, a printmaker and dealer who published a print of this picture probably commissioned the work. Despite painting this important group portrait, Singleton never became an Academician himself. He was twice rejected for Associateship, in 1807 and 1811.

Singleton first rose to prominence as a history painter. He never fulfilled his potential in this genre but remained popular throughout his life, particularly as a portrait painter. He lived in comfortable circumstances in London and died at the house of a friend in 1839.