Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891)
Group of Cavalry in the Snow: Moreau and Dessoles before Hohenlinden, 1875
Oil on canvas, 37.5 x 47 cm
Presented, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, 1950
Best known for his historical genre subject, Meissonier is also associated with battle paintings, depicting scenes from Napoleonic campaigns. He had accompanied Napoleon III on his campaign to Italy in 1859, and on his return to Paris Meissonier conceived a series of paintings to the glory of Napoleon I.
This is one of Meissonier's most important military scenes. It depicts the French General, Jean-Victor Moreau, planning strategies with his Chef d'Etat, Dessoles, before his famous victory at Hohenlinden (1800), a critical battle in Napoleon's campaign. Although signed and dated 1876, the picture is recorded in Meissonier's studio in 1875, and known studies for the composition date from 1872. Meissonier was highly conscientious in his research, and his works provide a precise and reliable record of events that occurred during the Napoleonic Wars, in a style that was much appreciated by contemporary Academic taste.