“Vive L’Empereur” by Edouard Detaille
“Vive L’Empereur” by Edouard Detaille depicts the cavalry charge of the 4th Hussars during the “Battle of Friedland.” Historians regard the Battle of Friedland as one of the most brilliant victories of Napoleon during the heyday of the French Empire.
In the “Battle of Friedland,” which took place in 1807, the French army under the command of Napoleon won decisively against a Russian army. The battle took place in the territory of Friedland, which was part of East Prussia and now part of modern-day Russia. The battle took place 84 years before this painting was created.
The 4th Hussar Regiment (4e régiment de hussars) is a Hussar regiment in the French Army, created in 1783 and still in existence. The Hussars played an essential role as cavalry in the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).
The uniforms worn by Napoleonic Hussars featured colorful, stable jackets adorned with braiding, often gold or silver for officers and rows of multiple buttons. The French hussar of the Napoleonic period was armed with a brass-hilted saber, a carbine, and sometimes with a brace of pistols.
A hussar was a member of a class of light cavalry, originating in Central Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. The title and distinctive dress of these horsemen were subsequently widely adopted by light cavalry regiments in European armies in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
Historically, the term derives from the cavalry of late medieval Hungary, with mainly Serb warriors.
Most of the great European powers introduced hussar regiments, and as light cavalrymen, they fought skirmish battles. The armies of France, Austria, Prussia, England, and Russia had included hussar regiments since the mid-18th century.
The hussars played a prominent role as cavalry in the Revolutionary Wars (1792–1802) and Napoleonic Wars (1803–15). As light cavalrymen mounted on fast horses, they would be used to fight skirmish battles and for scouting. In Britain, four light dragoon regiments were converted to hussars in 1806–1807.
The uniform of the Napoleonic hussars included a short fur-edged jacket which was often worn slung over one shoulder in the style of a cape and was fastened with a cord. This garment was extensively adorned with braiding and several rows of buttons. The tunic, which was also decorated in a braid, was worn under it. The hussar’s accouterments included a Hungarian-style saddle covered by a decorated saddlecloth with long, pointed corners surmounted by a sheepskin.
After horse cavalry became obsolete, hussar units were converted to armored units, though retaining their traditional titles. Hussar regiments still exist today, and horses are sometimes used for ceremonial purposes.
Jean-Baptiste Édouard Detaille (1848 – 1912) was a French academic painter, and military artist noted for his precision and realistic detail. He was regarded as the semi-official artist of the French army.
In 1912, Detaille created new uniforms for the French army. They were never adopted, but the blue-grey greatcoats influenced later French World War I uniforms.
During his life, he had amassed an impressive collection of military uniforms and artifacts and bequeathed to the Musée de l’Armée in Paris following his death.
Long live the Emperor – Charge of the Fourth Hussars at the Battle of Friedland
- Title: Long live the Emperor – Charge of the Fourth Hussars at the Battle of Friedland, June 14, 1807
- French: Vive L’Empereur charge du quatrième hussards à la bataille de Friedland, 14 juin 1807,
- Artist: Edouard Detaille
- Dates: 1891
- Materials: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: 445.0 cm × 512.5 cm (175.2 in × 201.77 in)
- Museum: Art Gallery of New South Wales
- Name: Edouard Detaille
- Born: 1848 – Paris, France
- Died: 1912 (aged 64) – Paris, France
- Nationality: French
- Major Paintings:
A Tour of the Art Gallery of New South Wales
- “The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon” by Edward Poynter
- “Vive L’Empereur” by Edouard Detaille
- “Bailed Up” by Tom Roberts
- “Cymon and Iphigenia” by Lord Frederic Leighton
- “Summer Time” by Rupert Bunny
- Diogenes by John William Waterhouse
A Tour of the Museums in Sydney, Australia
- Art Gallery of New South Wales
- Australian Museum
- Australian National Maritime Museum
- Museum of Sydney
- Powerhouse Museum
- Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney
- Nicholson Museum
- Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum
- Museum of Fire
“You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
Photo Credit: Édouard Detaille [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons