1812, Part 1

This year is the bicentennial of Napoleon’s great invasion of Russia, the one which destroyed his grand army and possibly forever extinguished his hopes of a French suzerainty over the rest of Europe. 1812 was for years thereafter a source of inspiration for patriots, writers, and artists.

A first example of art can be this one by an unknown painter of Napoleon’s forces crossing the River Neman – this began the invasion.

Napoleon crossing the Neman, by an unknown artist.

Twelve hundred field guns, ten thousand carts of provisions and nearly 600,000 troops marched across the Neman on June 24, 1812.

Barclay de Tolly, by George Dawe. (1825).

In charge of the Russian 1st army was Barclay de Tolly, who was of Scottish descent. He initiated a scorched earth policy that wore Napoleon down, and retreated to Smolensk. His image above is by George Dawe, an English painter who worked in St Petersburg between 1819-29.

The General of the Russian 2nd army was Pyotr Bagration, who was of Georgian descent. Here is his portrait by George Dawe’s studio.

Prince Bagration, by George Dawe’s studio. (1823-25).

Bagration was not to survive the campaign. He was badly wounded at Borodino and perished of shock after he was told that the Russians were abandoning Moscow.

[Translated excerpts from КНИЖКА С КАРТИНКАМИ.]

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