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A Soldier on the Field of Battle

A Soldier on the Field of Battle, 1818

Horace Vernet
French, 1789-1863
Oil on canvas
18-1/16 x 21-5/8 in. (46 x 55 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

A wounded grenadier of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard has just buried his fallen comrades in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo (1815). Beneath him, the hands and head of a slain soldier protrude from the bloodied soil. In the tradition of Romanticist painting, the solitary figure sits in a ruined landscape, absorbed by his melancholic thoughts. His inner grief is amplified by the turbulent sky, as the setting sun casts its last rays of light over the carnage.

Painted three years after the infamous battle that it depicts, this work garnered great sympathy and praise at the Paris Salon of 1819. Its success spurred Horace Vernet to produce three versions of the painting, one of which was purchased by the duc d’Orléans, the future king of France.

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