Empress Marie Louise and the Congress of Vienna

November 15th, 2017

The Military Collection owns a small album containing 30 water-colors pasted in, of various group scenes and single figures, some in semi-humorous poses. The album is unidentified and was apparently never accessioned into the collection.  While most of the pictures depict single figures of various European sovereigns and personages, the first three pages portray groups of various dignitaries including Tallyrand, Lord and Lady Castlereagh of Great Britain, and the Duke of Wellington.

While the water-colors are unsigned, the information from the front cover reveals the artist or compiler of the suite. Bound in olive green leather with silver fittings and clasp, there is a small silver plate bearing the name ‘Marie Louise’. This was most likely the Empress and wife of Napoleon I.

Austrian by birth (the daughter of Emperor Francis II), she had moved back to Vienna following Napoleon’s abdication and exile to Elba in 1814. She moved into the Schoenbrunn Palace just outside the capital and while she kept to her apartments especially during any special events for the many dignitaries who were in the city for the Congress, she did meet a number who were also staying in the Palace. The French Minister in Vienna noted, “The Archduchess Marie Louise is never present at any of the fetes and daily reunions which are brought about by circumstances. But she comes every day to see her father, and often calls on the sovereigns and grand duchesses who are staying at the palace.” She could also observe events at the Burg Palace in the city from a small platform that had been erected in the upper gallery surrounding the great hall.

To pass the time while she waited for the Congress to determine her future, she took drawing lessons among other things. These exquisite little renderings of persons observed in Vienna by the Empress may be the fruits of those lessons.


References: Imbert de Saint-Amand, Marie Louise, the Island of Elba and the Hundred Days (Scribners, 1891);

David King, Vienna 1814: How the Conquerors of Napoleon made love, war, and peace at the Congress of Vienna (Harmony, 2008)


Image of Andersonville

November 14th, 2017

The Military Collection recently acquired a lithograph commemorating the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Entitled Let us forgive but not forget, it was published in Chicago in 1884 by the Shober & Carqueville Lith. Company for 50 cents per copy, and the subtitle reads: ‘Dedicated to my fellow survivors and to all sons of veterans, in memory of 14,000 martyrs who perished in Andersonville Prison, Stockade, and Hospital. Yours truly in F.C. & L. Felix La Baume’. Beneath the image is another caption: ‘”The only true and correct picture of the horrible slaughter pen, copied from the original pencil sketch made by Felix LaBaume, Sergeant of Co. ‘E’, 39th Regt, N.Y. Vet. Vols., who was a prisoner of war at Andersonville from July 9, 1864, to April 19, 1865. Dr. John C. Bates, C.S.A. produced the original sketch on the trial of Capt. Wirz, and it was filed with the records of the trial as important evidence.”

There is some debate about the origins of this image and the person credited with its inception, Felix La Baume. The Andersonville National Park site has a page entitled Myth: The Mystery of Felix de la Baume. According to some accounts, the testimony of the latter was crucial to the trial of the camp commandant, Henry Wirz but it turns out he may never had been in the prison-camp, and furthermore may have been a deserter. Nonetheless, the image attempts to capture some of the horrific conditions endured by Union prisoners in the camp. We see men chained together while others are being tortured. One prisoner is being put into stocks, another is being screwed into a torture pole with an iron neck collar, while a third is being shot at.


Views of the Bala Hissar

November 10th, 2017

The Military Collection recently acquired two original albumen photographs with sepia toning, of British officers of the Royal Engineers (R.E.) in the Bala Hissar, Kabul, in June 1880. The men are seated in front of the entrance to the building  with carved woodwork and ‘European’ windows, opening towards the outside. The men have been identified by  Paul Bucherer-Dietschi of the Afghanistan Institut and Archive, and Brigadier Bill Woodburn as follows:

First row, sitting on folding chairs, from left to right: Lieut. J.C.L Campbell, Comd. No. 2 Coy Bengal ; Lieut. C. Maxwell, Adjutant; Lieut. A.H. Randolph, No. 3 Coy Bengal S&M; Major G.S. Hills, C.R.E. 2nd Division; Capt. M.C. Brackenbury, Field Engineer; Major W. North, Comd. Bengal S&M; Lieut. George Kenneth Scott-Moncrieff, Field Engineer.

Second row, standing, from left to right: Capt. H. Dove, Comd. No. 3 Coy Bengal S&M; Lieut. G.H.B. Gordon, No. 2 Coy Bengal S&M; Capt. C.H.M. Kensington, Field Engineer; Lieut. A.H. Kenny, Field Engineer; Lieut. G.H. Sim, Field Engineer; Lieut. H. Whistler Smith, Superintendent of Army Signalling.

The second photograph is almost a frontal view of the northern (courtyard) facade of the main building in the R.E. Quarters in the lower Bala Hissar. In the upper background the step like walls leading to the upper Bala Hissar are seen. Looking out of the open windows are the same officers as present on the previous photograph.

Such group photographs, especially the former, were typical of the second half the 19th century when the British Army was stationed or fighting in far-flung corners of the world. Officers such as these were drawn from the upper classes in England, were well-educated often attaining university degrees, and they considered the paramountcy of the British Empire is all important. Any question of the legitimacy of Britain’s role in the world was unimaginable to them. Their duty was to the Queen Empress, Victoria.

They wear typical campaign uniforms of the Second Afghan War, 1878-1880 with Sam Browne belts and knee-high boots. Three pith helmets can be seen. A pet dogs sits in front of the group while a heliograph can be seen on the right. Some sport beards or mustaches, while others are clean shaven.


Insurrection de Francfort

September 18th, 2017

A recent addition to the large collection of imagerie plates in the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, is a colored wood-engraved broadside (40 x 60 cm) published by the well-known imagerie company of Pellerin located in the French city of Epinal in 1833. This striking representation of the ‘Frankfurter Wachensturm’ depicts 50 militants, mostly students, who attempted to incite a revolution in Germany. The event took place on the night of April 3, 1833 with an attack on soldiers and policemen in the Hauptwache and Konstablerwache, two famous squares situated in Frankfurt.

The French text below the image ends with the statement: ‘‘Telle est la première tentative d’une révolution imminente dans un pays où les peuples supportent en silence, mais non sans impatience, le joug de fer de la Conféderation germanique.’

The revolutionaries waving a tricolour flag bearing the words ‘Liberté de l’Allemagne’, were easily overcome by troops, their plot having been betrayed in advance to the authorities. Several of those involved subsequently fled to North America. One of these, Gustav Koerner, who escaped to France disguised in female dress and then to New York, rose to the position of Lieutenant Governor of Illinois.

This was one of the most important revolts in the years proceeding the revolution of March 1848.

Hurra! Ein Kriegsbilderbuch…by Herbert Rikli

July 31st, 2017

A recent addition to the Military Collection is this first edition of a propagandized German illustrated children’s book published in Stuttart by Loewe in 1915. It contains 23 leaves of pages.

The book glorifies the German war effort through a little child’s fantasy of vanquishing Germany’s enemies and teaching German youth that their duty is to defend the homeland at all costs. The artist behind the pictures was Rikli (1880-1939), a Swiss illustrator and graphic designer .

The dealer notes, “Throughout the narrative, Willi, and later his Austrian friend, Franzl, heroically fend off soldiers many times their senior. The unsettling images depict the children in combat, marching, charging towards the enemy, firing at caricatured enemies, and throwing bombs at a city from a zeppelin. Willi is shown gleefully performing a soldier’s duties. Rikli employs a variety of devices — racial caricatures of colonial troops and Willi’s use of modern inventions like submarines and battleships, in contrast to the enemy employing rats, beetles, moles, grasshoppers, etc. — to belittle their French, English, and Russian enemies. The present book aptly encapsulates hostile European nationalism boiling over to the point that even children were targets of disturbing jingoism.”

The work contrasts with Ye Berlyn Tapestrie with images by John Hassall giving the British perspective to children about the brutality of the Germans.

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.