Study of a Dragoon, c. 1874-1883

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The French history painter Ernest Meissonier had a talent for military subjects, creating accurate reenactments of historic battles, particularly from the Napoleonic period. This drawing relates to two nearly identical paintings by the artist, a highly finished watercolor of 1874 (Yale University Art Gallery) and a large oil painting exhibited at the 1883 Salon (private collection). The paintings, titled The Guide, relate to the Napoleonic campaign in Germany in the fall of 1805 and depict a battalion of French dragoons (mounted cavalry) in the Black Forest led reluctantly by a local German peasant on foot. For such a complex multi-figured scene, Meissonier executed countless preparatory drawings—individual studies of every figure and horse in the composition. Here, with painstaking accuracy, he depicts the uniform of this dragoon— his elaborate brass helmet with horsehair, green coat, white breaches, tall black boots, slings and bundled cape—as well as his weapons—a saber and a musket. This serious, mustachioed soldier, a member of the 23rd regiment (identified by his satchel), is even shown wearing the yellow turnbacks and cuffs distinctive to this regiment.

Study of a Dragoon
Artist Life
Accession Number
'Atelier Meissonier, Paris (until 1893; his estate sale, Georges Petit Gallery, Paris, May 16-17, 1893). Sale, Sotheby’s, New York, October 31, 1996, no. 225, for $3,772, to Daniels; [David Daniels, New York; 1996-99; sold to Rich]; Charles and Peg Rich, St. Paul (1999-2017; given to Mia)
Curator Approved

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