Gratuitous violence: The cavalry prints of Daniel Ash

The collection recently acquired three colored lithographs published by Daniel Ash to complement three existing prints in the same series that had been acquired in 1957 and 1958. They all depict members of various British cavalry regiments. There appear to be 14 total images in the series, each portraying a members of a different regiment, and they were published by Ash at his premises in Fetter Lane, London, between February 1826 and early 1827. Each measures approximately 19.5 x 17 cm. (7 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches).

Such uniform prints were commonplace in the decades after the Battle of Waterloo as uniforms became more impressive and flamboyant, and this group are not unlike many similar images. The one significant difference is the gruesome violence that the artist has each soldier committing upon an unidentified enemy (probably intended to represent French cavalry even though the wars with that nation had been over for a decade or so). With expressions of nonchalance, the cavalrymen slice, cut, chop and decapitate their foes. The 9th Lancer drives his lance straight through his victim, while the 15th Lancer cuts off the hand of one assailant while slicing the head of another. A similar fate has befallen the soldier facing the 11th Light Dragoon, while the 12th Lancer, the 4th Dragoon Guard and the 17th Light Dragoon have managed to behead their enemy.

While such violence was to be expected on the battlefields of the 19th century with close hand-to-hand combat, depicting it for commercial purposes is another matter, and it is hard to fathom what the attraction of such prints might have been beyond the representation of particular regiments in their moment of valor. Each plate is almost in a cartoon manner and perhaps was not intended to be taken seriously.

Comments are closed.