The Battle of Nancy by Eugène Delacroix

Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix's The Battle of Nancy and the Death of Charles the Bold painting created in 1831.
The Battle of Nancy by Eugène Delacroix (1831)

The Battle of Nancy and the Death of Charles the Bold

The Battle of Nancy and the Death of Charles the Bold by romantic painter Delacroix circa 1831 Detail of the Burgundy Duke.
The Battle of Nancy
Detail of Charles the Bold
The Battle of Nancy by Eugène Delacroix is an oil painting on large canvas created in 1831. It is indisputable that the impulse of the Romantic painter to portray revolutions and historical war paintings, which depict the sense of motion and emotionally expressive figures. According to the listed name of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the romantic artwork is also known as The Battle of Nancy and the Death of Charles the Bold, who was the Duke of Burgundy between the years of 1467 to 1477. The Battle of Nancy was the last decisive conflict among Burgundian Wars and had been concluded with the fall of Charles the Bold, the son of Philip the Good and his succersor.

The Battle of Nancy and the Death of Charles the Bold by romantic painter Delacroix, depiction of Claude de Bauzemont.
The Battle of Nancy
Detail of Claude de Bauzemont
In 2019, the American Institute separated this work from the Battle of Nancy and made it part of a highly prestigious exhibition focused solely on the life of Eugène Delacroix. In the lower part of the large canvas, myriad characters are presented. Some of these are cavalry and knights, while others are infantry with their long spears and shields resembling Alexander the Great's phalanxes. It is known that the number of Charles's hastily assembled army was considerably less than its rivals. The Burgundian State soldiers led by Charles was around 8.000 men, while the number of their enemies were total of 22.000 troops led by René II, Duke of Lorraine.

Charles the Bold found after the Battle of Nancy by romantic painter and illustrator Auguste Feyen-Perrin circa 1865.
Charles the Bold found after
the Battle of Nancy by
Auguste Feyen-Perrin (1865)
With the help of mercenaries from the Swiss Confederacy, the Duchy of Lorraine has concluded the Burgundy War series as the victorious side of the final battle near the Wall of Nancy. In a conflict occuring in January 5 of 1477, Charles the Bold was defeated by a cavalryman of Lorraine Duchy, recorded as Claude de Bauzemont. Charles the Bold Found After the Battle of Nancy by French painter, illustrator and engraver Auguste Feyen-Perrin depicts the moment that defeated ruler found where he was lying three days after the battle. René II has commissioned the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Bonsecours on the battle area, while requesting that a cross to be put on the ground, where Charles the Bold found to praise his courage and sacrifice, as a a devout Christian.

Delacroix’s the Battle of Nancy Analysis

Achilles Dragging the Body of Hector by Pietro Testa between 1612-1650, depicts the Trojan War, related to the Battle of Nancy
Achilles Dragging the
Body of Hector by
Pietro Testa (1612-1650)
The Battle of Nancy contains an upper part of the landscape that reveals a very calming background, which creates a contrast with the conflict. Desire of the artist to create dramatic scenes and depict the madness of humankind make the prominent figures closer to the observer. In the painting, we see that the real face of the war is told instead of a heroic postures and triumphant stories that can be observed, especially from the Neoclassical Period paintings, such as the Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David concerning French Neoclassicalism or Achilles Dragging the Body of Hector around the Walls of Troy by Pietro Testa concerning Italian printmaking. It is obvious that the romantic painter also aimed to describe the chaos of the war with and objective perspective while painting.

The last Bourbon King of France, Portrait of Charles X by neoclassical paitner François Gérard circa 1825, related to Nancy.
Portrait of Charles X by
François Gérard (1825)
In September of 1828, the romantic painter has been asked to work on a war themed painting around the historical subject of the Battle of Nancy and related events, which have been assumed as important for the French History. The commission had been ordered by the last Bourbon King of France, Charles X and the Administration of Paris City together with art societies and critics. Due to the centuries between the battle and Delacroix’s period, the artist was either not a viewer of the real battle, nor visited the, a riverfront city of Nancy in the northeastern France. Yet, he started to create the imaginary drawings of the items as medieval weapons and outfits, such as, spears, cavalry, crowns, swords, etc. The romantic painter has started to work on historical painting before his visit to Morroco, along with his friend and a French diplomat Charles-Henri-Edgar, Comte de Mornay. As can be clearly seen in the Sultan of Morocco painting, the orientalist side of the romantic painter, who obtain his unique colors, comes from his visits to countries where eastern culture is intense.

Master of romantic painter Delacroix, self-portrait of the neoclassical painter Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, circa 1774.
Self-Portrait by
Pierre-Narcisse Guérin
After Delacroix’s arrival to the Paris from Morocco, The Battle of Nancy painting has been completed in 1831, just one year later from the creation of Delacroix’s best known painting Liberty Leading the People, commemorating the July Revolution of France. Eugène Delacroix was in the Parisian art studio of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin while working on his subject Nancy Battle and the death of Charles the Bold. The painting originally includes three main themes. First is the victory of Duke of Lorraine, René II from the Kingdom of Naples. Second is the fail of Charles the Bold and the drastic moment that his body has been found in the battleground by scouts, while the third and most obvious one is the dark side and the tension of a real battle. The romantic artist availed himself of some literary documents to draw his medieval tools, such as the scripture of Anne of Geierstein by Walter Scott, a part of the Waverley Novels in Central Europe.

Art patron Henri César Auguste Schwiter, commonly known as Baron by romantic painter Eugène Delacroix, circa 1828-1830.
Henri César Auguste Schwiter
by Eugène Delacroix
Henri César Auguste Schwiter or commonly known as Baron Schwitter provided these literary sources to the romantic painter as one of his notable art patrons in the artist’s career. Delacroix's famous painting is not only a historical painting but also reveals his admiration for Middle Ages and ancient times depictions. In the war that took place in a very chaotic background under the open sky, how Charles was erased from the stage of history is told in a dramatic way. The sunlight coming between the red, black and brown colors, brings the two main characters to the forefront, who are struggling for the dominance at the front side of the big canvas. The French romantics including Théodore Géricault, Anne-Louis Girodet, Léon Cogniet and Eugène Delacroix were highly influenced by lightning effects of Baroque Period, which can be clearly seen in Rembrandt and Caravaggio paintings, such as three version (Madrid, Vienne, Rome) of David and Goliath paintings.

The painting technique chiaroscuro means the effective use of light and dark together to create more realistic figures. Delacroix’s adaption of light dark painting and with the help of the inspiration of Peter Paul Rubens paintings containing vivid colors for the purpose of obtaining dynamism, may be seen as a watershed point for the romantic artist to create his own disegno and artstyle. The Venus of Urbino by Titian is a great example to examine the light and dark technique and to reveal how the famous French painter was influenced by Baroque Art

The Battle of Nancy Painting in Historical Context

Michael Pacher's portrait of Mary the Rich or Mary the Burgundy c.1490, the wife of Charles the Bold related to the Nancy.
Portrait of Mary the Rich
by Michael Pacher (1490)
The Battle of Nancy reveals three main groups in the battle ground, which are René II, the Duke of Lorraine and the Old Swiss Confederacy as the victorious sides of the Burgundian Wars, and Charles the Bold, the son of Isabella of Portugal and Philip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy and a member of the cadet branch of the old Kings Of France. When the body of the duke was found, a spear blow to the head over his right ear, old war wounds on his shoulders and some missing teeth make Mary the Rich ensured that he was Charles the Bold himself. It is presumed that he was injured by a swiss guard or a halberd and became unable to fight. This view also coincides with the depiction of the romantic painter Eugène Delacroix. The battle, which began with a cannon ball first and then an attack by the Swiss infantry group, took a turn for the worse when Charles reinforced his already outnumbered troops on the retreating left flank. The received blow to the head of Charles by a horseman, surrounded by a Swiss union with his general staff, also determined the fate of the conflict and the future of Burgundy.

The Battle of Nancy Legacy and Facts

The Barque of Dante painting by romantic artist Eugène Delacroix c.1822, related to the Battle of Nancy.
The Barque of Dante by
Eugène Delacroix (1822)
The Battle of Nancy painting hangs on the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, France. The romantic painting has the 237 cm (93.3 inches) height and 350 cm (137.8 inches) width. Eugène Delacroix’s creative touch that changed visual art trends all over the world, shows itself in the large painting, which can be placed at the bridge between Neoclassical Art and Romantic Era. According to the rules of great art and exact drawing of the period, the large canvases has been used for the historical subjects that represent a real story. The romantic painter had used a very large canvas to create Liberty Leading the People in 1830 and been criticized by being far away from aesthetics due to vulgar details of Lady Liberty. Similarly, The Barque of Dante was acceptable by being on a mythological context that derived from the Inferno, as the first chapter of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri and his journey to the Hell with Italian poet Virgil. Yet, just like The Entry of the Crusaders in Constantinople painting, The Battle of Nancy and the Death of Charles the Bold by Eugène Delacroix was on a real historical event that had been assumed as an appropriate and meaningful scene for portraying on a large canvas.
The Battle of Nancy by Eugène Delacroix The Battle of Nancy by Eugène Delacroix Reviewed by Articonog on February 03, 2022 Rating: 5

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