Russian national cavalry in the Battle of Leipzig.

Russian national cavalry in the Battle of Leipzig

Russian national cavalry in the Battle of Leipzig.

Russian National Cavalry in the Battle of Leipzig

In the history of the Napoleonic wars, one of the phenomena was the participation of the national cavalry - Bashkirs, Mesheryaks, Teptyars, Kalmyks, Crimean Tatars - in the army of the Russian Emperor Alexander I. The national cavalry, together with the Cossacks - Don, Black Sea, Orenburg, Ural, Bug, Astrakhan - formed irregular cavalry. Deployed on the outskirts of the vast empire, national and Cossack troops served border duty on their own horses, in national clothing with traditional weapons, sometimes dating back to the archaism of the Middle Ages.

In the department of visual materials of the State Historical Museum, among the graphic sheets dedicated to the events of the 1812 era, a special place is occupied by images of irregular units that took part in the Patriotic War of 1812 and the Foreign Campaigns of 1813-1814. Engravings depicting Cossacks, Kalmyks, Tatars, Bashkirs, and other nationalities of the Russian Empire are stored in the collections of famous collectors of the early 20th century - P.I. Shchukin, I.Kh. Kolodeev, A.P. Bakhrushin, P.Ya. Dashkov, totaling more than a hundred units. These are genre and battle scenes, views of cities, images of representatives of the irregular Russian army.

The drawing entitled "Tableau général de la Cavalerie Russe" depicts the Russian cavalry, including irregular troops, on the march.

G.Mansfeld, K. Rahl after the original by V. Kobel Russian cavalry. 1809.
G. Mansfeld, K. Ral from the original by V. Kobel
Russian Cavalry. 1809.

A general surrounded by staff officers, trumpeters, dragoons, hussars, horse artillery arrived to review the irregular cavalry. On the right are depicted Ural Cossacks, in the foreground - Bashkirs, Kalmyks, and Marquitantka. Although the engraving is unsigned, searching for analogs in other museum collections, including foreign ones, helped establish the name of the original author. It turned out to be the German artist Wilhelm von Kobel, who worked for a Viennese publishing house in the years 1805-1813. Among the numerous works of this draftsman with images of French cavalry, Prussian infantry, Prussian hussars and grenadiers, two sheets were dedicated to the Russian cavalry. In the engraving, Kobel's drawings were translated by German artists Karl Ral (K.-H. Pahl) and Heinrich Mansfeld (Mansfeld).

Another general view of the "Russian Imperial Cavalry" is captured in an aquatint engraving by German artists from the first quarter of the 19th century with images of several representatives of national cavalry: Crimean Tatars, Circassians, Bashkirs, who are in the same squadron as the hussars. The engraving was printed in Berlin, at the publisher Gaspar Weiss.

K. V. Kolbe from the original by Mayer Russian Imperial Cavalry. 1813.
K.V. Kolbe according to the original by Mayer Russian Imperial Cavalry. 1813.

On a graphic sheet by an anonymous French artist from the collection of the GIM, a group of three horsemen is depicted. The inscription below the engraving explains that the drawing was made from nature by a French soldier, depicting three Cossack officers captured in the last battle with their weapons and baggage. Note the inaccuracy: the engraving shows two Cossacks and one Bashkir, not three Cossacks as indicated in the inscription.

Unknown artist Two Cossacks and one Bashkir. First quarter of the XIX century.
Unknown artist
Two Cossacks and a Bashkir. First quarter of the 19th century.

Such inaccuracies are not uncommon, especially in graphic prints dedicated to the images of the small peoples of the Russian Empire, where Kalmyks are identical to Bashkirs, Nogais to Tatars, and inscriptions do not correspond to reality. In the collection of the pre-revolutionary collector Kolodeyev, a whole selection of small engravings from the series "Russian Troops" has been preserved, released in 1815 by the Parisian publisher Paul-André Bassé. The graphic sheets depict Kyrgyz, Kalmyks, Turkmen, Tatars, Bashkirs, and Circassians. In most cases, these sheets do not have author signatures, but the names of some artists are known to us. These are masters of the French national art school - Blanshar, Dubua, Desré. What makes their work interesting? First of all, the foreigner's view on the ethnic groups of the peoples of the Russian Empire - their customs and traditions, costumes, uniforms. Not all peoples participated in the Napoleonic Wars, but foreign artists during their travels through the Russian Empire, such as Geissler or the Englishman Sir Robert Ker Porter, loved to sketch them, especially the Bashkirs.

Alexander Osipovich Orlovsky is the undisputed leader in painting Bashkir riders. He was the first Russian artist to depict a Bashkir long before the events of 1812. In the collection of original graphic works of the Department of Artistic Education of the State Historical Museum, there is a drawing by Orlovsky "Bashkir on a Horse," where the artist's skill in capturing small details in the clothing and weapons of the nomadic peoples (quivers with arrows, archery gear, cotton robes, high hats with fur trim, or tri-corner hats - kolaksins) is especially noticeable.

Orlovsky AI Bashkir on horseback. 1818 Paper on cardboard, Italian pencil, sangina
Orlovsky AI. Bashkir on horseback. 1818. Paper on cardboard, Italian pencil, sangina

Looking at the graphic works of contemporary artists, it is worth paying attention to one peculiar feature - the color palette in engravings did not always correspond to reality, in most cases it was arbitrary. This was due to the fact that the sheets were engraved by some artists, while others painted them according to their knowledge or ignorance of the color palette of Russian soldiers' uniforms.

The difference in the coloring of engravings is clearly visible on two paired sheets, chronologically related to the events of the beginning of 1813, for example, in the "Siege of Danzig by Russians" and the "Clash of Cossacks with French carbineers at Marienverder". These engravings were printed in Germany in large numbers in the first quarter of the 19th century and were successfully sold in Europe and Russia. In 1911, 25 sheets from this series were acquired by the Moscow Museum of 1812.

The specific participation of the national cavalry in the Battle of Nations is not always reflected in documents, but in the visual arts the theme is apparent.The Battle of Leipzig was quite popular in the work of many artists, predominantly German, depicting Cossacks and national cavalry. An interesting lubok image by an unknown artist entitled "Glory Battle at Leipzig October 6, 1813!" with a large inscription in Russian below the image is curious: "It seems incomprehensible how Napoleon, who commanded in 30 battles and with his military glory sought to overshadow the achievements of previous Commanders, put his Army in such a disadvantageous position! But God, in whose hands the fate of Kingdoms and Nations lies, puts an end to the violent pursuit of evil, from which all-powerful intrigue falls into confusion until the loss of reason. He who was favored and the Tyrant of the universe with his hellish cunning is deposed, and His almighty Right Hand has sent from His Throne the strength of his righteous and lawful allies."Unknown artist Great Battle of Leipzig October 6, 1813 First quarter of the XIX century. Another engraving depicting the battle of Leipzig is signed by the masters of the German school Karl Rahl and Johann Adam Klein. These sheets are quite well known as they were printed in mass circulation by the Viennese publishing house Artaria, where artists such as Heinrich Mansfeld, Karl Schutz, Peter Krafft, Johann Zigler, and others worked. The events of October 19, 1813 were sketched from nature by the Leipzig artist and engraver Johann Jakob Wagner (Johan Jakob Wagner, 1766–1834). Interestingly, for a long time Russian researchers could not identify the name of the artist, as at that time there were several artists in Leipzig with the same surname. Colleagues from Leipzig helped reveal the "moment of truth" by indicating the authorship of two artists - Wagner as the author of the original, and Johann Lorenz Rugendas as the aquatint engraver." class="wp-caption aligncenter" >I.Rugendas from the drawing from nature I.Vagner Popular battle at Leipzig. 1813.

I.Rugendas from the drawing from nature I.Vagner
Popular battle at Leipzig. 1813.

Very striking in its brightness and saturation is the engraving of other German artists Frosh and Lehmann "Letzte Gefechte der sich zurückziehenden französischen Armee am 19. 10. 1813 in den Vorgärten Leipzigs", depicting the events of the same day, October 19, but the action takes place against the backdrop of city gardens.

K. Frosh from the drawing by F. Lehmann The last battles of the French army on October 19, 1813 in the gardens of Leipzig. Around 1820.
K. Frosh after the drawing by F. Lehmann
The last battles of the French army on October 19, 1813 in the gardens of Leipzig. Around 1820

At a closer look at the engraving, you can see Bashkir warriors attacking the enemy in the background.

In addition to works of printed graphics, the Historical museum houses two original sheets dedicated to the events in Leipzig. One of them is a sketch by an unknown artist from the collection of Moscow collector A.P. Bakhrushin and the second drawing, densely colored with watercolor and gouache, signed. This is the work of the German watercolorist Christian-Gottfried-Heinrich Geissler (H.G.Geissler) "Battle on the Meat Square in Leipzig on October 19, 1813", which depicts an episode in the middle of the day on October 19th, when all four allied armies met their vanguards on Leipzig Square.

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H.G.G. Geisler Battle on the Meat Market in Leipzig on October 19, 1813. 1813-1814. Paper, watercolor, gouache, chalk, ink, pen.

Not only were battle scenes the focus of contemporary artists' attention. Of interest is a genre engraving by English painter, draughtsman, and engraver John August Atkinson (J.A.Atkinson), thanks to whom views of Russian and European cities have been preserved shortly after the events described. In the sheet "Blick vom Grimmaischen Tor auf die Vororte Leipzigs" the square of the suburb of Leipzig - Grimma, is visible after the battle, filled with wounded, killed, groups of Cossacks collecting trophies.

The only painting from the collection of the Historical Museum dedicated to the Battle of Leipzig belongs to the brush of one of the first Russian battle painters, Vladimir Ivanovich Moshkov (1792–1839). The original title of the painting is as follows:

"Battle in front of the city of Leipzig on the heights of Wachau between the villages of Konnewitz and Libertvolkvitz, which took place on the sixth day of October 1813, in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor of All Russia and the King of Prussia, under the leadership of the commander-in-chief of the Russian-Prussian armies, General of Infantry M.B. Barklay de Tolly."

Moshkov V.I. Battle of Leipzig. 1815 (?) Canvas, oil
Moshkov V.I.
Battle of Leipzig. 1815 (?)
Canvas, oil

The painting was transferred to the funds of the State Hermitage Museum from the Military-Historical Museum in the late 1920s, previously kept in the estate of the Princes Baryatinsky in Ivanovo, in the Kursk province. In St. Petersburg, in the funds of the State Russian Museum, there is another version of this canvas. According to restorers of the Department of Easel Painting of the State Research Institute, who conducted restoration work and chemical-technological expertise of the painting from the collection of the State Hermitage Museum, the "Moscow" version of Moshkov is considered a sketch of the painting from the Russian Museum. Restorers also noticed a number of uniformological inaccuracies, such as: horizontal stripes of French flags, headgear of French infantrymen, the uniform of the Prussian king, shining breastplates of Russian cuirassiers, atypical combination of red dolmans and shakos for the French army, etc. Nevertheless, during the chemical-technological expertise of the canvas, the authorship of V.I. Moshkov and the date (1815) were confirmed.

The National Cavalry of the Russian Tsar took the most active part in the Napoleonic Wars of 1812-1814. For most of its representatives, the concepts of honor and loyalty to their emperor, to their homeland, were not empty words. Their participation in the NapoleonicIn the Napoleonic wars, they perceived their participation not as a duty, but as a conscious necessity of defending their homeland. By fulfilling their military duty where the military command placed them, they, along with the army, Cossacks, militia, and allied troops, were bringing the hour of victory closer. One of the vivid episodes of such a struggle was the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig.