18th century Vues d’Optique

May 22nd, 2014 by Peter Harrington

Sixty years ago, Anne Brown acquired five hand-colored engraved transparencies from a dealer in Maine. These date from the late 18th century and were probably published in Vienna. Some of them may have been engraved by Georg Balhazar Probst. Known as Vues d’Optique, they were displayed in a back-lit box containing a candle and a convex lens designed to enhance the depth perception as well as illuminating parts of the scene. This was achieved by cutting-out sections while painting over other parts on the back. They depict the following:

1. An indoor scene with a large number of attendants and spectators in mourning dress and military uniforms, at an investiture of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Transp4 Transp4a

2. An outdoor night scene by and after Johann Hieronymus Löschenkohl (1753-1807) showing a Turkish commander surrounded by a military escort, titled ‘Der Bascha u. Novi wird am 3ten Oct. 1788 um zu Capituliren zum G.F.M. Baron v. Loudon geführt‘.




3. An outdoor military scene in Prussia, showing soldiers in foreground kneeling, while mass is celebrated under a canopy near a flowing scene.

4. The death of F.M. Lt. Gen. Prince Fürstenburg at the battle of Stockach, 26th March 1799.

5. A bird’s eye view of the Siege of Gibraltar, by Probst.


Recently two additional prints by Probst have been acquired depicting naval battles.

Naval BattleNaval Battle verso


For further details of Vues d’Optiques, see Devices of Wonder (Getty)

Prussian Uniform Chart

May 16th, 2014 by Peter Harrington


1799 Prussian uniform chart      Prussian chart detail 3



A recent acquisition is a large painted chart depicting the entire range of uniforms in the Prussian Army of the late 18th century. It is somewhat similar to a chart in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle which dates to 1799 and is probably from the hand of the same artist. Such charts were published officially, frequently to show the changes and additions of the uniforms. The collection owns another water-color painted chart, circa 1788 entitled Plan der Königl: Preussischen Armee so wohl Ober Officier als Gemeine in ihren accuraten Uniform, und Staercke. Annual manuscript books containing entire pages for each regiment but often with more detailed written information, were also produced and a number of these are in the Military Collection.

The gouache on board image measuring approximately 63 x 86 cm. contains upwards of 270 figures in all,  showing three-quarter length images of soldiers in various uniforms, each identified by a faint caption. At the top are six full-length figures flanking an oval portrait showing the head and shoulders of the Prussian king, possibly Frederick William II (reigned 1786-1797) or III (reigned 1797-1840), although the full name cannot be made out.

Fort Custer Army Illustrators

May 6th, 2014 by Peter Harrington

A recent addition to the Military Collection is a fine gouache painting of soldiers playing cards in camp stateside during the period of the Second World War.

Gaylord Flory PAY DAY

In anticipation of war, Congress passed the Selective and Training Act of 1940 requiring all men between the ages of 21 and 35 to register with their local draft boards. This resulted in a massive influx of inductees into training camps around the country who were housed in temporary barrack buildings and recreation halls. At a number of camps, artist-recruits came together to create art programs designed to brighten-up the new wooden buildings in addition to creating recreational programs. One of the earliest and most successful soldier art programs was at Fort Custer near Battle Creek, Michigan. Self-styled the ‘Fort Custer Illustrators’, a group of soldier-artists began creating paintings and murals representing army life in the early summer of 1941. The illustrators held a number of exhibitions at the Camp Service Club and the first to showcase soldier art opened in early August 1941. So impressive was the quality of the artwork that a selection was chosen for exhibition in February 1942 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This painting by Gaylord Flory entitled Pay Day, is typical of the high standard of art achieved in the camps.

Veterans of War

March 20th, 2014 by Peter Harrington

Two recent additions to the Military Collection focus on veterans of military service in the first decade of the 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars. The image below is actually from a panel of 15 similar figures painted from nature by Christian Gottfried Heinrich Geissler (1770-1844); a second panel bears a further group of veterans. Both are titled Trümmer der französichen Armee bei ihrer Rückkher ins Vaterland im Jahre 1813 [Retreat across Germany of the French Army in Shambles after the Disastrous War in Russia] and both prints can be viewed on the Cornell University digital archive. A blog about them describes the awful conditions that Napoleon’s army had to endure during its retreat from Russia.

Poor Veterans

The second image is a water-color measuring 13 x 9 inches. According to uniform historian, Christopher Bryant, “this is a very rare and compelling watercolor of a Royal Navy Lieutenant on half pay around 1815.  This was the fate of apparently many impecunious junior officers, who when placed on shore and without a ship, faced very challenging economic circumstances if they did not have private means, or enough Prize money.  The point of the painting seems to be that all he has is his kit bag and his single Lieutenant’s epaulette as all he has to show for his services to his country.  Unshaven,  down at heel and neglected by the authorities, apparently such men were not an uncommon sight in places like Portsmouth at the end of the War.  It is very rare to find such an unsentimental view of one, however, as evidently a piece of social commentary.”

RN Lieutenant on half pay 1815

U.S. Naval Uniform Project, 1946

March 7th, 2014 by Peter Harrington

Following the end of World War II, the United States Navy proposed changing some of the enlisted man’s uniforms as well as those of WAVES and nurses, and commissioned some designs to be created. They also contracted the artist, Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) and the New York-based commercial photographer, Murray Korman (1902-1961) to create mock-ups of some of uniforms. The designs were apparently never adopted, but as John Nicholas Brown was Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air at the time, and aware that his wife was a scholar of military uniforms, the Navy presented him with the photographs and three paintings.












Wyeth painted three designs in oil on panel showing figures dressed in the proposed uniforms. Korman provided photographs of models wearing the proposed uniforms superimposed on a ship deck.

Korman 1              

William Simpson in Abyssinia

February 5th, 2014 by Peter Harrington

In 1868, the Illustrated London News dispatched the Scottish special artist, William Simpson (1823-1899) to cover the military campaign that was taking place in the east African country of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). While his remit was to record images of the army as it moved towards the capital of Magdala,  Simpson was rather more interested in the history and antiquities of the country and his diary entries and numerous of his sketches attest to this preoccupation.

New Pier at Annesley Bay 1868Burning camels AbyssiniaThe Military Collection has acquired from two dealers in England, a group of eight of Simpson’s original sketches dating from April and May 1868 and depicting various scenes.

Abyssinian PloughTwo prisoners AbyssiniaThis selection of pictures represents the new pier built at Annesley Bay to allow the unloading of supplies for the expedition, drawn on 25th March 1868 (top);  burning dead camels and mules in a pass; an Abyssinian plow; and the trial of two prisoners for looting commissariat stores, painted in April 1868 (bottom).

Recrutment des Chasseurs d’Angoulême

December 20th, 2013 by Peter Harrington

A recent addition to the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection is a French recruiting poster dating from 1814. This folio broadside includes representations of two uniformed figures, one a grenadier, the other a line infantrymen. The text reads:

Chasseurs dAnguileme

“Good men of Languedoc, Those of you who wish to serve His Majesty with distinction in the Noble Regiment of Chasseurs of His Royal Highness, Monseigneur the Duke of Angoulême, can place their trust in the Officers of the Corps; they will find in them compatriots who will find their good deeds particularly noteworthy. They will also receive a prize for enlisting, and the Colonel gives his word that you are guaranteed a leave after four years of service.”

The regiment served during the French Empire and in 1814 became known as the Chasseurs Angoulême under the command of Louis-Antoine d’Artois, Duke of Angoulême, who was called to arms from Nimes to raise several battalions in the south to counter the landing of Napoleon in Golf Juan following his return from exile on the island of Elba. The regiment became the 5th Chasseurs during the Hundred Days and was dissolved at the end of the 1815. Re-constituted in 1816 in Avignon under the name of Chasseurs Regiment du Cantal, it became the 5th Regiment of Chasseurs in 1825, and was transformed into Lancers under the July Monarchy.

Storming of Monte Video

October 23rd, 2013 by Peter Harrington


Storming of Monte VideoThe Military Collection has recently acquired an aquatint depicting the action at Monte Video, Uruguay in 1807. Entitled Storming of Monte Video, Feby 3rd 1807, it was taken “from a drawing made by an officer on the spot, Lieut. George Robinson, Rl. Marines.” The print was engraved by John Heaviside Clark and Matthew Dubourg and was published and sold in London by Edward Orme of Bond Street on March 25, 1808. In addition to the main image, there is an inset ‘View of Monte Video from the Sea’ after a drawing by Irby, Esqr, and a ‘Plan of the City and March of the Troops.’ It is ‘Dedicated by permission to B. General Sir Samuel Auchmuty and the Officers engaged at that Gallant & ever memorable Attack by Edward Orme’.

The print commemorates the events of February 3, 1807, when British troops under Auchmuty and Admiral Charles Stirling besieged and captured the city. This was the culmination of several days of bombardment which targeted the wall near the large Anglican cathedral. A breach was finally achieved allowing the British to assault the city but under a withering fire from two bastions held by the defenders, and hindered by hides which the defenders had added to the wall to partially fill the breach. This resulted in heavy casualties on the attacking force. Within a month, the city was back in Spanish hands following the surrender of the British garrison.

For further information on the Battle of Montevideo, see the Wikipedia entry.


World War Two Mural by Horace Day.

October 1st, 2013 by Peter Harrington

With the expectation that the United States would be drawn into war, Congress passed the Selective and Training Act of 1940 requiring all men between the ages of 21 and 35 to register with their local draft boards. This resulted in a massive influx of inductees into training camps around the country. To house this multitude of new recruits, temporary barracks and recreation halls were constructed at a cost of over $165,000,000. To brighten-up these new drab wooden buildings, artists began to paint murals as decoration actively encouraged by the Special Service Division of the Army Service Forces. So successful were the art programs that the Division published a 32-page booklet entitled Interior Design and Soldier Art as a manual for those wishing to improve the appearance of the recreation halls, service rooms, and other communal buildings. With the end of the war in 1945, many of these temporary buildings were demolished and the murals were in most cases destroyed. Today, with a few exceptions, only photographs and newspaper clippings attest to this rich source of 20th century American art.

Horace Day Jukebox
At Camp Howze near Gainesville in Texas, one artist, Private Horace Day, painted a series of six panels describing “G.I.” music for the Music Room of the Service Club No. 2.  However, aware that such buildings were only temporary, Day asked that he be notified when the camps became redundant. In a memorandum dated November 20, 1943, Day recommended that as the paintings represented the camp life of the 86th Infantry Division, they should go to that unit after the war. However, this was not the case and at least two were returned to the artist in November 1945. Several years ago, the artist’s son donated a large body of artwork from the war including two oil on canvas murals, one of which is depicted here (measuring 111 x 174.3 cm). It represents a  group of tired, resting soldiers following a rigorous day of training, clustered around a large jukebox in the center of the picture. Such scenes were common and served to make the young recruits feel at home as well as building a sense of camaraderie.

Dr. William Brydon and the massacre of the British force in Afghanistan in 1842

August 7th, 2013 by Peter Harrington

The Military Collection recently acquired a fine colored photogravure after Lady Elizabeth Butler’s well-known 1879 Royal Academy painting, The Remnants of the Army. This depicts the ‘sole survivor’ of a British force of 16,000 soldiers and civilians that was attacked and destroyed near Gandamak, Afghanistan in January 1842 during the First Afghan War. The picture represents the thirty-year old Scottish assistant surgeon, Dr. William Brydon, wounded and exhausted, riding his worn-out and wounded pony, approaching the fortified city of Jalalabad. His approach has been spotted by the garrison of the fort and troopers ride out to meet him.

Butler Remnants


As the subtitle of the print incorrectly suggests, the doctor was the only one to survive the massacre. However this has been debated by various authors including William Dalrymple in his recent book Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-1842. Following his arrival at Jalalabad, Brydon gave a full report of the events and this has been analyzed in a 1983 article by William Trousdale. It now appears that others survived and made it back to Jalalabad.

During the Second Afghan War of 1878-1880, the Peshawar Field Force camped at Jalalabad for several months, and William Simpson, the artist of the Illustrated London News who was embedded with the column investigated the site of the 1842 massacre, the former British encampment, and the accounts of Dr. Brydon’s arrival at Jalalabad. With the same field force was Major John James Bailey, Paymaster of the 4th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. According to a note in Simpson’s album, ‘Major Bailey was in the 13th Reg. and served under [General Sir Robert] Sale in the illustrious defence of Jellalabad. He received his commission and returned again in 1878 with the Rifles, and was the only man who could point out to us the various spots connected with the first war’. Simpson’s autobiography repeated this: ‘One day he took us to the spots that were connected with events in the siege. First we went to the Kabul gate and he pointed out the spot where Dr. Bryden [sic], the solitary survivor of the of an army, was first seen approaching Jellalabad…Bailey described to me the costume worn by Dr. Bryden on his coming in, and I made one or two sketches till I satisfied him of the likeness’.

Simpson Dr Brydon


Mounted in Simpson’s Afghan album is Bailey’s letter to him dated ‘Camp Jellalabad, December 29, 1878′:

Dear Mr. Simpson:

Have seen your sketch of Dr. Brydon as he rode into Jallalabad on the 13th January 1842. And as well as I can remember after a lapse of thirty seven years I consider it a very fine representation of both man and pony. Dr. Brydon and three other officers made a dash to ride to Jallalabad but unfortunately the other three entered a village not many miles from here and were killed by an Afghan Piquet. Dr. Brydon was then pursued and received a cut on his right arm which fell over the front of his saddle and his assailants believing he was drawing a pistol rode away from him. In the meantime he had been seen by the Officer on duty at the Cabool Gate of Jallalabad who reported that a soldier of the 44th just was riding towards the fort, the doctor having a 44th soldier’s forage cap caused him to be mistaken at first for a soldier of that Regt. Our cavalry immediately got ready and dashed across the plain and brought the doctor in. I believe the pony he rode died the same night from the effects of the long ride he had to handle. I am not entirely certain where those officers commenced their ride from, but I fancy it must have been from the Jugdullick Pass, as had they been with the small party that reached, and was cut up at Gundamuck they would not be able to escape the large force of Afghans that had assembled there, and where the last stand was made.

I remain

Respectfully Yours

J.J. Bailey, Major

Paymaster 4th Bn. Rifle Brigade

Simpson exhibited a water-color of ‘The Sole Survivor’ at the exhibition of the Institute of Painters in Water-Colour, London, in December 1879, and the reviewer in the Illustrated London News noted that the picture was “painted from sketches on the spot and descriptions lately furnished to the artist by Major Bailey, an eye-witness of Dr. Brydon’s arrival – the subject treated so pathetically also by Miss Thompson [Lady Butler].”