SPECIAL ADVISORY: The Yale University Art Gallery opens to the public with free, timed-entry tickets to special exhibitions beginning September 25, 2020. Learn More

European Art
PrevNext1 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Ary Scheffer, Dutch, active France 1795–1858

The Retreat of Napoleon’s Army from Russia in 1812

1826

Oil on canvas

127.6 × 162.6 cm (50 1/4 × 64 in.)
Purchased with a gift from Richard L. Feigen, B.A. 1952, and the Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund
2011.136.1
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.
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
French
Period: 
19th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Provenance: 

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.

Bibliography: 

“Le Globe, journal philosophique et litteraire,” Le Globe IV (2 September 1826): 45–6.

Marthe Kolb, Ary Scheffer et son temps, 1795-1858 (Paris: Boivin Et Cie Editeurs, 1937), 300–2, 471.

Leo Ewals, Ary Scheffer 1795-1858: gevierd romanticus, exh. cat. (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Dordrechts Museum, 1995), 114–15, no. 18, 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.

Karen Serres, “Ary Scheffer’s “The Retreat of Napoleon’s Army from Russia in 1812”,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2012): 107–111, ill.

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 such records is ongoing.