23.11.10

November 23, 1812

Napoleon in winter dress, portrait by Vereschagin

It was on this day that Napoleon Bonaparte abandoned his Grande Armee in Russia and ran for Paris.

There is no such historical figure is all XIX century that attracted artists' attention so much as Napoleon. Many famous artists of the Napoleonic epoch imprinted the Great Emperor in their pictures each in his own way. And many artists of the later periods did the same. And it is not wonderful because a powerful person always attracts attention and Napoleon was such person indeed.

And well-known Russian artist Vereschagin brings up this line. His "Napoleon in winter dress" finishes the long list of the Emperor's portraits bringing the new and very unusual note. A very new face is looking at us from this portrait. All his clothing, this warm fur cap, the wide fur coat and the turned up high collar, all these things just do not suit for Napoleon.

The whole world that saw the Great Emperor in his uniform or in the famous gray coat and his cocked hat just could not recognize him in such dress...

And this face, poorly shaved, with snow on the moustaches and the beard, without any former inspiration and courage, is it really the face of Napoleon? And this Napoleon as we see him on this portrait by Vereschagin, in spite of all his victories and bloody results of his numerous campaigns, suggests a feeling of deep regret, because the heralds of the Saint Helena Island are seen in his face...
The retreat.

Vive le Roy!
Brantigny

Thanks to my good friends Nick and Elena Mozak in Belgorad, Russia, for these prints. From their article, "RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN OF 1812" Nick and Elela are translators. Their site is here...

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