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The Battle of Hanau
Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet
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Following his defeat at the Battle of Leipzig on 19 October 1813, Napoleon was forced to withdraw west of the Rhine and retreat to France. As the French withdrew, they met a force of Austro-Bavarian troops, under the command of Karl Philipp von Wrede, on 30 October at the town of Hanau, near Frankfurt. Despite their previous heavy losses, the French, under the personal command of Napoleon, pushed back Wrede’s troops and captured Hanau, which gave them eventual access to France. The Battle of Hanau was one of Napoleon’s final victories before France was invaded.

This painting is the third in a group of four battle scenes commissioned from Vernet by the duc d'Orléans. Although the duke did not fight at Hanau, he benefited politically from references to Napoleon and the memory of imperial victory. As in the other pictures in the group, a panoramic view is combined with detailed scenes of dramatic action.

Key facts
Artist Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet
Artist dates 1789 - 1863
Full title The Battle of Hanau
Group Four Battle Scenes
Date made 1824
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 174 x 289.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Sir John Murray Scott, 1914
Inventory number NG2966
Location in Gallery Gallery A: Paintings after 1600
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Four Battle Scenes

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Following the military defeat and abdication of Napoleon in 1815, the Bourbon monarchy was restored in France. These four large battle paintings were commissioned by the duc d'Orléans (1733–1850) who had returned to France after some 21 years in exile. In 1830 he became Louis-Philippe, King of the French.

Although painted during the period of the Bourbon Restoration, all four pictures – for which Vernet was paid 38,000 francs – show French victories during the previous era of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. The duke had fought with the armies of the newly established French Republic at Jemappes and at Valmy, and was keen to demonstrate his Republican sympathies. The pictures were hung in prominent positions in the Palais-Royal in Paris and functioned as propaganda celebrating French military glory and the Duke’s own career and leadership. Completed over five years, the paintings are The Battle of Jemappes (1821), The Battle of Montmirail (1822), The Battle of Hanau (1824), and The Battle of Valmy (1826). Damaged by fire in the revolution of 1848, they were restored by Vernet himself.

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