In 1871, Ruskin paid 1,000 guineas for Meissonier’s painting of the Emperor Napoleon, Elba-escapee, bidding to regain power, rallying his troops on the Chaussee de Vitry, at the battle of Arcis-sur-Aube, in 1814, because:
“It would be difficult to find a more perfect example of the French realistic school than this picture. It is, of course, conventional, and founded on photographic effect.
The white horse in reality would have looked like a ghost in the twilight . . . But in its kind it is without rivalship, and I purpose that it shall remain in St. George’s schools – for a monument of War-Sorrow, where war has been unjust.”
... and because he thought the 1870 Franco-Prussian War unjust. Ruskin sold it in 1882 for 5,900 guineas, after asking the artist to copy various details, for teaching purposes. This detail concentrates on the dourly determined Napoleon, blocking the flight, astride his great grey charger, 'Marengo'.
Where to see this painting?
The Ruskin Museum
Yewdale Road, Coniston, Cumbria, England, LA21 8DU
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.
More on this painting
gift from Mrs and Mrs William Gershom Collingwood, 1901