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Wounded Cuirassier Leaving the Field of Battle

Louvre, Paris


Lorenz Eitner notes the exceptional nature of Géricault’s Wounded Cuirassier :

The Wounded Cuirassier is exceptional among Géricault’s larger paintings in one curious respect: the preserved studies for it do not make clear how he arrived at its composition. For his other major projects – the Charging Chasseur, the Race of the Riderless Horses, the Raft of the ‘Medusa’, and several others – we have a long series of preliminary studies in which the gradual evolution of the composition can be followed step by step. Géricault did not invent with ease. Although able to paint with a speed and assurance that amazed his friends, he built his compositions laboriously. He did not conceive the main forms of his design in one intuitive vision, but arrived at them through experimentation, proceeding from revision to revision in a close succession of compositional studies. This gradual evolution is so characteristic of his works that one is surprised not to find it in the preliminaries for the Wounded Cuirassier….But fairly recently there has come to light an important painting by Géricault, which can be regarded as a precursor of the Cuirassier and, in a sense, as part of the preparatory work for it. The Signboard of a Hoofsmith [private collection], like the Cuirassier, presents a massive figure standing in front of the straining horse and holding the reins in his fist close to the horse’s tossing head. With his free hand the hoofsmith grasps his hammer, as the Cuirassier grasps his sword. There are differences between the two pictures, but they are outweighed by the resemblances: the pyramidal shape of the group, the overlapping of the clearly contoured figures of horse and man, the treatment of the horse as a foil for the solidly modelled body of hits master….By means of datable drawings which occur in the same sketch-book [Department of Prints and Drawings, Art Institute of Chicago], the Hoofsmith project can be dated securely c. 1813-14 – earlier, at any rate, than the Cuirassier.”

Lorenz Eitner, “Géricault’s Wounded Cuirassier,” The Burlington Magazine, vol. 96, no. 617 (August 1954): 236-8.

Similar Subjects by Other Artists:

Joshua Reynolds, Captain Robert Orme, 1756 (The National Gallery, London)

Helene Schjerfbeck, Wounded Warrior in the Snow, 1880 (Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki)

About the Artist

Born: Rouen, 26 September 1791
Died: Paris, 26 January 1824
Nationality: French