The Retreat of Napoleon’s Army from Russia in 1812 Artist: Ary Scheffer (Dutch, active France 1795–1858)


European Art

Not on view

In the winter of 1812, Napoleon’s army retreated from Moscow under harrowing conditions, pursued by the Russian army amid a paralyzing cold. At the center of this canvas, General Ney is depicted on horseback leading the troops to safety. Ary Scheffer was a close friend of Ney’s son, and the canvas, painted fourteen years after these terrible events and more than a decade after Napoleon’s fall from power, was meant as an homage to this great general and to the French Empire. Scheffer’s use of thick brushwork and contrast of light and shadow, so effective in this painting, changed dramatically after 1830, when his palette became more subdued and his subject matter less radical.


Oil on canvas


50 1/4 × 64 in. (127.6 × 162.6 cm)

Credit Line

Purchased with a gift from Richard L. Feigen, B.A. 1952, and the Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund

Accession Number



19th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



The painting stayed in the artist’s studio, located at 42 rue de La-Ville-l’Evêque in Paris until at least 1832 when it was shown in another charity exhibition. After this, The Retreat of Napoleon’s Army from Russia in 1812 disappeared, and was known only through a lithograph published in 1833 and an 1844 engraving by Edouard-Henri Girardet, of which Yale owns a fine version (1993.1.189). Having been lost for over a century and a half, the painting was discovered by a private collector when cleaning out his basement in the Ile Saint-Louis, Paris, around 1986. It was then purchased after by Richard Feigen, who sold it to the Gallery in 2011.
  • Karen Serres, "Ary Scheffer's "The Retreat of Napoleon's Army from Russia in 1812"," in "Elihu Yale," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2012), 107–111, ill
  • Leo Ewals, Ary Scheffer, 1795-1858: Musée de la vie romantique, 10 avril-28 juillet 1996, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée de la vie romantique, 1996), 28, no. 16, ill
  • Leo Ewals, Ary Scheffer 1795-1858: gevierd romanticus, exh. cat. (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Dordrechts Museum, 1995), 114–15, no. 18, ill
  • Marthe Kolb, Ary Scheffer et son temps, 1795-1858 (Paris: Boivin Et Cie Editeurs, 1937), 300–2, 471
  • "Le Globe, journal philosophique et litteraire," Le Globe IV (2 September 1826), 45–6
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

histories (visual works), military history, warfare

Technical metadata and APIs


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