Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D , Case SCX, Shelf 7

Albanian duel

Watercolour
ca. 1828 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

War-like Albanians, dressed in flowing garments, festooned with daggers, pistols and swords, were a favourite subject for Romantic artists, and Byron chose to be represented in Albanian costume in his famous portrait by Thomas Phillips. In the early 19th century Albanians were alleged to be the fiercest section of the Ottoman forces, and indeed there are many travellers’ descriptions of their alarming appearance. In this watercolour, Descamps had focused on the tension between the two combatants as they glare fiercely at one another and parry with their distinctive short swords [hançer.] Each goads the other on while their cloaks and white kilts [fustan] swirl about them. The drama is echoed by the men and the galloping horses approaching from the background, hoping to intervene before the outcome proves fatal.

Descamps’s oriental subjects resulted from a trip to Greece, Albania and Turkey in 1827-1828. When they were exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1831 onwards, they were highly acclaimed, and in his life time he became almost as famous as that better-known Romantic painter, Eugène Delacroix. Naturally, Descamps has here deliberately chosen a highly-charged subject that he knew would appeal to the Romantic ideas of his patrons, yet it is perfectly possibly that he did witness a duel such as this. Duelling caused by alleged slights of honour appeared frequently in many cultures, and indeed in that same year of 1829 the Duke of Wellington (in plainer costume) fought a duel with Lord Winchilsea in the swampy wasteland of Battersea Fields.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Water- and bodycolour, with gum, heightened with white
Brief Description
Watercolour, Albanian duel, about 1828 by Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps
Physical Description
Watercolour drawing
Dimensions
  • Height: 30cm
  • Width: 39.6cm
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
Signed Decamps and inscribed on old mount ALBANIAN DUEL By DESCAMPS
Credit line
Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Shell International and the Friends of the V&A
Object history
According to Rodney Searight: - `Bt Christies (privately, ex Colln. Royal Geographical Society), Jan.1974, £45'.
Subject depicted
Place Depicted
Summary
War-like Albanians, dressed in flowing garments, festooned with daggers, pistols and swords, were a favourite subject for Romantic artists, and Byron chose to be represented in Albanian costume in his famous portrait by Thomas Phillips. In the early 19th century Albanians were alleged to be the fiercest section of the Ottoman forces, and indeed there are many travellers’ descriptions of their alarming appearance. In this watercolour, Descamps had focused on the tension between the two combatants as they glare fiercely at one another and parry with their distinctive short swords [hançer.] Each goads the other on while their cloaks and white kilts [fustan] swirl about them. The drama is echoed by the men and the galloping horses approaching from the background, hoping to intervene before the outcome proves fatal.



Descamps’s oriental subjects resulted from a trip to Greece, Albania and Turkey in 1827-1828. When they were exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1831 onwards, they were highly acclaimed, and in his life time he became almost as famous as that better-known Romantic painter, Eugène Delacroix. Naturally, Descamps has here deliberately chosen a highly-charged subject that he knew would appeal to the Romantic ideas of his patrons, yet it is perfectly possibly that he did witness a duel such as this. Duelling caused by alleged slights of honour appeared frequently in many cultures, and indeed in that same year of 1829 the Duke of Wellington (in plainer costume) fought a duel with Lord Winchilsea in the swampy wasteland of Battersea Fields.
Bibliographic References
  • Les Orientales, Paris, Paris-Musees, 2010
  • Searight, Rodney and Scarce, Jennifer M., A Middle Eastern journey : artists on their travels from the collection of Rodney Searight, Talbot Rice Art Centre, 1980
Collection
Accession Number
SD.304

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record createdJanuary 4, 2008
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