Jan Van Chelminski
Napoleon Passing through the Guadarrama Mountains, 1808
Signed Jan V. Chelminski (ll); inscribed Hazel Hortman on the stretcher
Oil on canvas
30 5/8 x 39 5/8 inches (77.8 x 100.6 cm)
There is a painting entitled The Crossing of the Guadarrama Pass, Campaign in Spain, 1808 listed in a catalogue of an exhibition at M. Knoedler & Co., New York, Military Pictures of the French, Russian, Polish and British Armies by J.V. Chelminski. The exhibition was held from Jan. 31 to Feb. 12, 1916. The painting is listed as no. 20. Chelminski's second wife, Leonia, was the daughter of New York art dealer, Michael Knoedler.
In the early years of the Peninsular Wars, shortly after Napoleon turned on his former ally Spain, the Battle of Somosierra was a pivotal campaign by the French against the Spanish army. Aided by the Polish Chevau-Legers of the Imperial Guard on the other side of the mountain pass, the French were able to remove the last barrier on the road to Madrid, which fell to Napoleon only a few days later.
Chelminski chose to depict Napoleon's advance through the Somosierra Pass in the Guadarrama Mountains on the morning of November 30, 1808. Napoleon's troops, shown hunched and braced against the frigid morning air, follow closely behind their intrepid leader up the frozen pass towards the Spanish contingent. Such carefully observed effects as these made Chelminski one of the great history painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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