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Oil painting - The Battle of Waterloo: The British Squares Receiving the Charge of the French Cuirassiers
  • The Battle of Waterloo: The British Squares Receiving the Charge of the French Cuirassiers
    Philippoteaux, Félix Henri Emmanuel, born 1815 - died 1884
  • Enlarge image

The Battle of Waterloo: The British Squares Receiving the Charge of the French Cuirassiers

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (painted)

  • Date:

    before 1874 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Philippoteaux, Félix Henri Emmanuel, born 1815 - died 1884 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on paper laid on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Bruce Ingram

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Felix Philippoteaux (1815-1884) was born in Paris where he trained with Léon Coignet (1794-1880). He soon specialised in history and portrait paintings and started exhibiting at the Salon in 1833. He also produced battle scenes, some of them in a panorama format with the assistance of his son Paul Dominique Philippoteaux (1846-1876), who would be at the forefront of a new generation of panorama painters. Félix Philippoteaux was awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1846.

This painting is a preparatory study for a finished version showing the Battle of Waterloo, also owned by the museum (see 84-1880). The finished version was praised for the accuracy of the historical details whereas the present sketch focuses on the composition of the scene and the rendering of the violence of the conflict thanks to a tangle of intertwined bodies. The battle of Waterloo between the British army and the French Napoleonic army took place on the 18th June 1815. This type of representations draws upon 17th-century Dutch examples such as Philips Wouverman (1619-1668) and differs from the Realist interpretation of the subject.

Physical description

Battle scene: tangle of horses, soldiers and corpses in a hilly landscape with smoke under a cloudy sky.

Place of Origin

Paris (painted)


before 1874 (painted)


Philippoteaux, Félix Henri Emmanuel, born 1815 - died 1884 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on paper laid on canvas


Height: 44.7 cm estimate, Width: 57 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Given by Bruce Ingram, 1935

Historical significance: The present painting with its broad and sketchy technique is most likely a preparatory study for the larger finished version 84-1880. It shows the battle of Waterloo, which took place on the 18th June 1815 in the South of Brussels (Belgium) and involved the British, Germans, Belgians, Dutch and Prussians against the French Grande Armée of Napoleon. As the finished version is dated 1874, it is reasonable to assume this sketch was executed shortly before that date.
Battle scenes in the 19th century draw upon a long tradition since the representation of warfare on Antique low-relief and its revival during the Renaissance, which reached its peak during the 17th and 18th centuries in Italy and the Netherlands.
Although 19th-century Realist artists developed a taste for military battles as an illustration of the Napoleonic campaign, they were more concerned with people and their sufferings. In this regard, Philippoteaux is closer to the art of Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891) who devoted himself to re-creating the past, chiefly of the Revolutionary and Empire periods with a meticulous attention to historical details.

Historical context note

History painting, i.e. depictions of non recurring events based on religious, classical, literary or allegorical sources, particularly developed in Italy during the Renaissance (15th-16th centuries). History painting could include religious themes, or depictions of momentous recent events, but the term was most frequently associated with Classical subject-matter. However a renewed impetus was given to religious subjects after the Council of Trent (1545-63), which stipulated new iconographical programmes. The development of art treatises, in which the compositional rules guiding the art of painting were discussed also notably, influenced the evolution of history painting. From around 1600 history painting's principal rivals: still-life, landscape and genre painting began to emerge as independent collectable genres. Furthermore, the Rococo taste for the ornamental in the early 18th century prioritised the decorative quality of history painting, so that subject matters became more entertaining than exemplary. There was a renewed interest in history painting during the Neo-Classical period after which the taste for such pictures faded towards the end of the 19th century when an innovative approach to the image was led by the Symbolists and was developed further by subsequent schools in the early 20th century.

Descriptive line

Oil sketch on paper laid on canvas, 'The Battle of Waterloo: the British Squares Receiving the Charge of the French Cuirassiers' by Félix Henri Emmanuel Philippoteaux, before 1874.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 80-82, cat. no. 177.


Oil paint; Paper; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Canons; Horses; Soldiers; Warfare; Battle




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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