SHEF_MSH_VIS_1025
Topic: Artist

This work appears to show a nineteenth-century soldier which, aside from the subject being untypical, would make Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714–1789) unlikely as the artist. Has there been some confusion here and the author is actually Horace Vernet?

Horace Vernet (1789–1863) on Art UK: http://bit.ly/2aYJ7Db

Museums Sheffield note:

'There does seem to be a pencil note on the catalogue card suggesting it may be by Horace, and as you say, Claude-Joseph Vernet would not have painted a nineteenth-century soldier!'

Al Brown, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Edward Stone,

This painting is now listed as after George Housman Thomas (1824–1868).

This amendment will appear on Art UK in due course.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.

22 comments

Peter Harrington,

The figure is definitely a French soldier of the mid-late 19th century and could well be by Horace Vernet. He painted several scenes from the Crimea and the Austro-Sardinian War of 1859 as well as numerous military genre scenes.

Toby Campbell,

Neither I would say. Absolutely not CJ Vernet and not nearly good enough to be by Horace Vernet. I would say anonymous, amateur painter.

Foteini Vlachou,

Horace Vernet seems highly unlikely as the author of this work (the only relationship being subject matter). For the same reason, I might suggest someone like Nicolas Toussaint Charlet, who is probably closer from a stylistic point of view. It is an unusual work and format – and how about that '24' at the feet of the soldier?? Charlet produced a great number of lithographs, could there be a connection?

Peter Harrington,

I would date the uniform to circa 1850-1880. In the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection here at Brown University, we have many lithographs by Charlet and his contemporaries Bellangé and Raffet (as well as H. Vernet), and the vast majority of their pictures pre-date this period. You could look at other artists such as Isidore Pils but as Toby points out, the style of the work suggests an amateur hand. Or failing that, it is a rough oil study for a larger work.

Martin Hopkinson,

There was an exhibition which included his paintings which I reviewed for Print Quarterly in 2009 [ from a print historian' s point of view] . It showed him to be a painter of some quality rewarding deeper study . I will search out this information - but if by Charlet this is rather below his usual quality. Of course it may be related to a print. As well as the artists Peter Harrington mentions, of course, there were many other French artists attracted to the possibilities of selling military subjects at the time

Martin Hopkinson,

Print Quarterly , XXVI, 3, 2009 - more when an unexpected visitor has gone

Foteini Vlachou,

I also thought mid-nineteenth century was a more probably dating, but Charlet was the only name I could recall that had also worked extensively on print. I find the angle of the composition, the pose of the soldier and the '24' intriguing, even if by a less skilled artist.

Martin Hopkinson,

The exhibition was in 2008 at the Musee Municipale, St Roche-sur-Yon. There is a copy of the excellent catalogue in the National Art Library . Charlet : aux origines de la legende Napoleonienne, 1792 - 1845 - essays by Natalie Bochart, Bruno Foucart and Helene Jagot.

Wayne Langsdale Pickering,

The French army began wearing district red trousers (“Le Pantalon Rouge”) in 1829. In 1845 a ministerial order replaced the close fitting long tailed jacket in the line infantry with a double breasted blue wool frock coat and baggy red wool trousers fitted into white canvas or black leather gaiters. The soft wool kepi was adopted in 1852, although the leather shako continued to be in use in some regiments until 1870. Epaulettes were still worn by soldiers in the ranks in both the Crimea and the Franco-Prussian War. The leather belt pre-dates 1873. Therefore the soldier in the picture is most likely an infantryman of the period 1852 to 1873. The uniform would rule out Claude Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) but not necessarily Horace Vernet (1789-1863).

Betty Elzea,

The above is fascinating. I would say that this is not by a naive artist. It is a very lively, slightly caricatured, assured, artist. Without knowing anything about it, I would guess it was from about 1870-75. Very nice!

Oliver Perry,

In fact it was published as a coloured print in the Illustrated London News of October 18th, 1856.
http://www.old-print.com/cgi-bin/item/J7141895310/search/36-Print-French-Soldier-Sitting-Rock-Shoreline-Smoking-Pipe-1856-310J714-Old-Original#

According to this seller, the print was after an original by GH Thomas (presumably George Housman Thomas):
http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=4305873810&clickid=0RuSnR2BpyRpyX9W-2yCKzNtUkkw1N3dSwc9Qk0&cm_mmc=aff-_-ir-_-71954-_-77666&ref=imprad71954&afn_sr=impact

Martin Hopkinson,

Thomas was well known as an illustrator of books and journals. Without more knowledge I do not think that one can determine whether this is a copy or an original.

It is interesting to compare all three images, to find that the print is the most assured in its treatment, both of the figure - for instance in the strong placing of the left leg, the weight of the left arm leaning on it, and the exact placing of the pipe stem in the mouth below the moustache - as well as the surrounding landscape. ln comparison, while reproducing all the main elements fairly faithfully, the watercolour still fails to convince: the pose lacks the sense of weight leaning on that leg, the creases in the uniform are flabby, and the pipe no longer sits precisely in the soldier’s mouth. Beside them, the oil painting appears to be a much less capable work and therefore likely to be a copy, presumably of a yet-unidentified Thomas original. I would therefore propose that the attribution of this work is altered to ‘after George Housman Thomas’.

If not French, then this painting would also come under the British 19th Century Group. I concur with Jenny's analysis of the images, and her conclusion that the print is better drawn (I would also highlight the soldier's left hand and the distant rocks) and the painting likely to be a copy of it or an original painting.

Jade King,

This discussion has now been linked to the British 19th C, except portraits group.

It is worth noting that the Sheffield painting and the chromolithograph are virtually the same size -- '23.4 x 23.4 cm' and '9 x 9 inches' respectively. This suggests that the source of the Sheffield copy is more likely to be the print than Thomas's original painting.

Having access to a digitised version of the ILN, I find that the 'French Soldier' was illustrated as a pair with a 'Boulogne Fish-Girl'. The accompanying text, 'The Fish Girl and the Soldier', waxes lyrical about the subjects but annoyingly does not mention the artist. GH Thomas does not come up in a text search in that edition of the ILN either.

Oliver Perry,

When I was researching this a while ago I found an impression online with Thomas's name printed below the image (attached). I think it must have been from an eBay seller, though I can't find the link now.

1 attachment

That's very clear, Oliver, a variant of the print I found from the digitised ILN. So I think we can safely conclude that the painting in Sheffield is a copy of the print after George Housman Thomas (1824-68), and essentially can be described as 'after Thomas'. Interestingly Wikipedia says Thomas worked in Paris for a while and died in Boulogne - hence perhaps the subjects of the 'Boulogne Fish Girl' and the 'French Soldier'.

Jade King,

Thank you. Museums Sheffield staff have indicated they are currently busy with the opening of the newly refurbished museum, and will look into Art Detective comments and suggestions when they are next able.

Museums Sheffield,

We are happy for the painting to be described as after George Housman Thomas (1824–1868). Many thanks for everyone's comments.