Russian hussar and soldier, circa 1810

January 13th, 2017

A recent acquisition is a hand-colored Japanese woodblock print showing a hussar and a private soldier of the Russian army, circa 1810. The hussar is dressed in a blue dolman jacket decorated with gold braid on the chest, and a tall red hat decorated with a hackle; he holds a pistol in his right hand; the private wears a blue jacket, tall black hat, a rucksack and is armed with a rifle with a bayonet. A notation in the upper right corner reads “Russia. Europe”. It is possible that the print is based on a Russian original brought to Japan by the embassy of Nikolai Rezanov (1804). The latter was Russian ambassador to Japan and he landed at Nagasaki in October 1804. An alternative explanation is that the crew of his ship included representatives of the Russian army who were sketched by a local artist.

Saint Lucia. Royal Rangers 1797

September 28th, 2016

A recent acquisition by the Military Collection is a small water-color on paper depicting two native soldiers in the West Indies standing in front of a guardhouse with diagonally set defensive stakes by the exterior fence. This picture is titled and dated Saint Lucia. Royal Rangers 1797, and on the bottom left are the initials VM. According to the dealer, these stand for Valentine Munbee, a captain of HM 43rd Regiment which went to the West Indies in 1787. Munbee sketched these twosaint-lucia-royal-rangers members of a locally-raised black unit named Malcolm’s Royal Rangers which was serving on the Island of Saint Lucia in 1797 under the command of General John Moore who would later die at the siege of Corunna, Spain in 1809 during the Peninsular War. Two companies of the Royal Rangers had been raised early in 1795 on the island of Martinique by Captain Robert Malcolm, detached from the 41st Regiment.

According to Rene Chartrand’s article ‘Black Corps in the British West Indies, 1793-1815’ (JSAHR 76, 1998, pp. 248-254), Malcolm’s unit was particularly effective at counter-insurgency work in the interior of Saint Lucia where the rough terrain and humid conditions were considered inhospitable to European troops.

As to the meaning behind this grisly scene, we can only guess. The decapitated head is clearly that of a native and perhaps he was one of the insurgents.

Malcolm’s Royal Rangers were later absorbed into the 1st West India Regiment in 1797.

William Taylor: The Defence of Arrah House

May 5th, 2016

During the sepoy rebellion, also known as the First War of Indian Independence, the house at Arrah situated in Bihar State in northeast India, was attacked in early July 1857 by mutineers from Dinapore under the command of 80 year-old Veer Kunwar Singh. Inside were six officials, the Judge, Collector, Magistrate, Assistant Magistrate, Civil Surgeon and Deputy Opium Agent, together with 3 railway engineers. As the situation became more tense, the group moved into a two story billiard room. This room, the “house” as depicted, had been fortified by Richard Vicars Boyle, one of the railway engineers, by bricking up the verandah arches. They were joined by fifty loyal Sikhs, and provisioned with cases of port and sherry. The mutineers looted the treasury and attacked the Arrah House laying siege to it and offering bribes to the Sikhs to hand over the British. The relief, when it came three weeks later on August 3, was led by Major Vincent Eyre.Defence of Arrah House

This recently acquired print was from a painting by William Tayler (1808-1892), Commissioner of Patna. It shows the exact position of the attacking party, the house of which the mutineers took possession, and from which they attacked the besieged; and the small building from which the garrison defended themselves against 8,000 men.

The hand-colored lithograph measuring 33 x 48 cm. was published in London by W. Thacker and Co., the lithography by Maclure and Co. It was accompanied by a small pamphlet entitled Brief narrative of the defence of the Arrah Garrison written by Boyle, and the print was dedicated by the artist to the latter ‘to whose skill and forethought the safety of the Garrison is principally to be attributed’. Taylor himself published an account of the defense in The Friend of India on August 30, 1857.

Hippolyte Bellangé: Napoleonic General Maison in Ghent (March26, 1815)

May 3rd, 2016

On March 26, 1814, General Nicholas Joseph Maison in command of the French 1st Corps retreated from Antwerp and entered the Belgian town of Ghent where he remained for five days. Unable to withstand allied pressure, he was forced to quit the place on the 30th, but on the next day, although greatly outnumbered, he was able to achieve a notable victory over a Saxon corps under General Thielmann near the Belgian city of Kortrijk.

Bellange Ghent 1814

Hippolyte (Joseph-Louis-Hippolyte) Bellangé (1800-1866) was a leading painter and illustrator of French military scenes in the first half of the nineteenth century. Much of this influence came from his studies under Jean-Antoine Gros which began at the age of 16. It was there that he made the acquaintance of Nicolas-Toussant Charlet. At the urging of the latter, Bellange turned to lithography producing over 500 examples some of which are in the Military Collection. He progressed to oil paintings most of which focused on military subjects. However, the current work is a water-color painted in 1833. The scene is intended to represent the Korenmarkt of Ghent with the gatehouse of the Gravensteen Castle to the right. Soldiers and civilians are milling around as the place is being evacuated.

Gillray and De Loutherburg in Valenciennes

December 3rd, 2015

In the late summer of 1793, the Swiss artist, Philip James de Loutherbourg (1740-1812) was commissioned by the publishing brothers, Valentine and Rupert Green, and the Swiss printseller, Mechel, to paint a scene of the grand attack on Valenciennes, France, on July 26, 1793. He was paid £500. The siege of Valenciennes was the main action in the Duke of York’s campaign in the Low Countries against the French and it aroused a lot of interest in Britain. ValenciennesThe artist invited the celebrated caricaturist, James Gillray (1756-1815) to accompany him and they obtained special passes to enable them to travel to France and Flanders to make the necessary preparatory sketches of the various commanders and studies of the soldiers engaged in the siege. The writer, Thomas Holcroft noted in his diary that Gillray was ‘a man of talents, however, and uncommonly apt at sketching a hasty likeness’. According to Thomas Wright in his work on Gillray, upon their return to England, the various drawings were shown to King George III who praised Loutherbourg’s sketches of buildings and landscapes but barely looked at Gillray’s attempts (not surprisingly since Gillray often poked fun at the royal family in his caricatures. A number of these sketches survive in the Military Collection, the British Museum and the Royal Collection. The seven sketches at Brown depict mainly Hessian and Austrian troops from 1793.

Hessiangens darmesEsterhazy

Ref: Peter Harrington. British Artists and War. The face of battle in paintings and prints, 1700-1914. London, Greenhill, 1993, page 68-69.

Ref: W.Y. Carman, ‘Loutherbourg sketches’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Vol. 26, 1948, page 82.

Sergeant, First Light Infantry of Providence

October 5th, 2015

RI Militia photo caseA recent addition to the Military Collection is a hand-colored tinted ambrotype of a sergeant of an antebellum militia company. It is in a glass and gold metal frame 14 x 11 cm. behind a brass mat all contained within in a large carved wooden frame 32 x 28.5 cm.RI Militia photo detail

This striking studio portrait taken sometime in the decade prior to the Civil War depicts a seated figure wearing a bright scarlet coatee festooned with gold buttons and adorned with epaulets. His trousers are navy blue or black with a wide stripe of white. Across his chest are two shoulder belts with a distinctive rectangular belt plate bearing a shield. His left hand cradles a sword, and on the table to his right rests a tall bearskin with white plume.

While the uniform is similar to that worn by the Albany Burgess Corps of New York, it is more likely to be a member of the First Light Infantry of Providence, Rhode Island, a prominent militia unit which was chartered in 1818; it furnished two companies to the Rhode Island Detached Militia in 1861 when war broke out,  and became a regiment in 1863.





The Wounded of World War One

June 12th, 2015

During the Great War, the allies suffered over 12 million wounded, the Central Powers over 8 million. As a subject of artistic inquiry, few artists ventured to tackle such a sensitive theme yet the prevalence of wounded soldiers in the towns and cities of Britain could not be overlooked. As The Windsor Magazine put it in 1916, ‘the parks and squares are full of these good, uncomplaining fellows, to whom we owe more than we can repay’.  The writer went on to suggest that the wounded were an ‘attractive subject for the artist’ in reference to a painting titled The Creditors by the British academic artist, John Charles Dollman (1851-1934) which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1916. Dollman The Creditors Another reviewer writing in The Connoisseur remarked, ‘Less immediately warlike is Mr. J. C. Dollman’s Creditors, a row of wounded soldiers sharing a park bench with a trim looking nurse. The scene is given in pleasant colour and with a keen appreciation of the inevitable cheerfulness which Tommy Atkins displays under the most adverse conditions’. A photogravure print was subsequently published by Frost and Read, a provincial company in Bristol, England.

The image shows four wounded soldier sitting on a bench with a nurse in Hyde Park, London. It has been suggested that the four represent soldiers from Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England although this cannot be confirmed. The nurse is lighting a cigarette for one of the soldiers. This picture and the meaning of the nurse is discussed at length in ‘Art of a Second Order’: The First World War from the British home front perspective by Richenda Roberts (Ph.D. 2013), pp. 13, 38 and 126.

Dollman FraterniteIn 1917, Dollman exhibited another war-related painting at the Royal Academy, this one depicting wounded soldiers at the front. In Fraternité, we see a group of invalids marching down a muddy road somewhere on the Western Front. Leading the group is a quartet of soldiers, three of whom are wounded. A French medical orderly with cigarette in hand acts as a support for one of the wounded who may also be French. Flanking this pair are two wounded British soldiers, while other French and British wounded follow behind.



The Death of Wolfe

June 1st, 2015

The Military Collection recently acquired a wash-drawing by the well-known English artist and illustrator, Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927). For many years, Woodville served as a senior studio artist for the Illustrated London News, ‘working-up’ sketches that have been sent to the London offices of the paper on the Strand by the various special artists working around the globe. He was know for his dramatic style especially in his many scenes of battles and historical personalities. He was also a professional studio artist and exhibited many military paintings at the leading galleries including the Royal Academy. A search through issues of the Illustrated London News from the 1870’s through World War One reveals countess pictures by the artist. However, his work for the paper ceased in 1921 although he did contribute a scene of the English Civil War in 1925.

The present work was not apparently drawn for the News but Woodville contributed many illustrations to other books and magazines including The Boy’s Own so this image might well have been drawn for it as he was working for this paper in the 1920’s.

Woodville death of Wolfe

In this picture which is a departure from the usual scenes of his death, General James Wolfe has been shot by a French soldier on the Plains of Abraham during the Battle of Quebec in 1759. In the background, the artist has depicted the Citadel of Quebec with a rather unusual high tower, more akin to the Great Tower of Windsor Castle than Quebec! The subject was not new for Woodville as he had dealt with it previously in various publications including British Battles on Land and Sea (1915).



Archers piquiers

April 29th, 2015

Among the manuscripts in the Military Collection is a bound volume entitled Le journal du sergent major de la place conquise sur les ennemis. This was acquired from William H. Schab, a dealer in rare books and prints in New York City in March 1951. The work is signed ‘Sieur de Lamyre’ – probably Gabriel de la Mire, 1632-1685. Part of the text is devoted to the subject of ‘archers-piquiers’ (archers with pikes) combined with musketeers. A large folding plate signed by Noel Cochin (1622-1695), the famous French engraver and landscaper artist shows a formation of archers with musketeers repelling an attack by cavalry and infantry.

Archers Piquiers 17th centuryTwo folding water-colors are also bound in including one showing an archer and a musketeer engaged with a cavalryman which exemplifies the author’s thesis in detail. In this scene the archer supports the musketeer’s attack by discharging arrows; the second picture shows him using a pike against the horseman’s charge, and protects the musketeer who continues to fire.

The author advocates the use of archers with pikes to support the musketry. He points out that 30 arrows can be discharged for 6 musket shots, that more arrows can be carried than charges of powder, that muskets are costly and cannot be used in rain or snow, and that pikes carried by archers can serve as defense against a cavalry charge and provide cover for the musketry to reload. Although the author does not wish to supplant muskets, but only to supplement them by forming mixed battalions, his defense of archery is curious at this late date in the seventeenth century.

[Extract from dealer’s typed note inserted in front cover]

Alderman Kirkman’s Funeral Procession, 1780

February 17th, 2015

A recent purchase is a broadside depicting the funeral procession of Alderman John Kirkman in London on Sunday, September 24, 1780. John Kirkman (1743-1780), Alderman for Cheap Ward, was a London fishmonger and Sheriff elect. During recent popish riots in London, Kirkman had commanded the City Volunteers on several rainy nights during which he caught a cold that quickly turned to a fever. He withdrew to his family home in Margate, Kent, where he died on September 19.

Alderman Kirkman funeral

That he was a popular local politician is evidenced by the massive turnout for his funeral which drew crowds along the route. Many of the local papers described the procession such as this one from the Gentleman’s Magazine for September:

‘The corpse of Mr. Ald. Kirkman was brought in a private manner about 3 o’clock as far as the obelisk in St. George’s Fields; it was there met by the gentlemen of the military associations, and   conducted to Blackfriars bridge, where the lord mayor, aldermen, city marshals, &c. joined the procession. They proceeded from thence up Ludgate-hill, through Cheapside, to the church of   Bassishaw, for internment, in the following order:
The two city marshals.
Four staff-men on horseback
Drums and fifes, muffled
London foot association
Trumpets sounding the horse dead march
A quarter-master
Twelve light horse volunteers
An officer
Board of Feathers
Hearfe [with names of six Pall Bearers]
Band of musick on horseback playing the dead march in Saul.
An officer
Light horse volunteers, two and two.
An officer
The chief mourner’s coach
Three other mourning coaches.
Lord mayor and aldermen.
The two sheriffs
The election committee
Sundry carriages with friends
The concourse of people on this occasion was the greatest ever known’.

So immense was the crowd that one little 4 year old girl was thrown down at Blackfriars and trampled to death, while a young 10 year old boy fell from the balustrade of the bridge into the River Thames and downed. People crowded all available windows, roof tops, and any elevation in order to watch the proceedings. Meanwhile a toll collector on the bridge was assaulted by the servant of a farmer during the procession, while thieves broke into the house of one family in Clerkenwell who had gone to watch the event. Some people criticized the funeral for being held on a Sunday fearing that it might ‘occasion disturbances by drawing a disorderly mob together, and thus converting the Sabbath…into a day of tumult, riot and confusion’; while others were disgusted at the ‘pomp and glare’ of it believing that the Alderman himself would have preferred to spend the money on ‘alms to the distressed and poor’. One writer believed that it sent a positive message to ‘the idle and lower class of spectators’ that the city could now turn out a respective force of its own ‘sufficiently powerful to prevent a repetition of such tumults as disgraced London on the 6th and 7th last’.