Enquire

To enquire about this item please enter your details below and we will contact you shortly.

(Your details will not be shared with any third parties)

Tick the box below if you would like to receive the Armoury of St James's Bulletin - a quarterly e-newsletter that showcases an exclusive selection of the latest military antiques offered at our premises in Piccadilly Arcade.

Please note that your details are used solely for dealing with your enquiry and will not be sold or passed on to any third parties.

A Gilt Bronze Old Guard Grenadier of the Premier Empire, 1890
Hover over image to zoom, click to expand.

A Gilt Bronze Old Guard Grenadier of the Premier Empire, 1890

Measurements: Height overall: 45cm (17.75in)

SOLD

Enquire
Gilt bronze. A Grenadier-à-Pied de la Garde Imperiale modelled in Full Dress - Tenue de Grande Parade - as usually donned before an action to render the Old Guard as imposing a sight as possible, this comprising blue tail coat, fur cap with cords, white waistcoat, breeches, stock, gaiters, and blood red epaulettes, set upon a naturalistic base inscribed ‘Vieille Garde’. Mounted on a sienna marble base.
 
Whenever Napoleon went to war the Old Guard was present. They served from Madrid to Moscow as his strategic campaign and battlefield reserve. Foot Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard were selected on physical traits, most notably above average height. They formed a formidable sight on the battlefield when mustered into regiments. The Old Guard enjoyed numerous privileges including better pay, barracks and rations. They had their own hospital  at Gros-Caillou near Paris. Line regiments not only had to give way the Old Guard on the line of march but to halt, present arms and sound a salute. Another privilege was the freedom to express discontent. Accordingly they were known as ‘les Grognards’ - the Grumblers.  Some even did so in the presence of the Emperor. Such behaviour was unique to the Old Guard and would have been severely punished in any other unit. 
 
Not all however were favourably impressed with their appearance. The British artist Benjamin Haydon, who saw them at Fontainbleau in 1814, noted ‘More dreadful looking fellows than Napoleon’s Guard I have never seen. They had the look of thoroughbred, veteran, disciplined banditti. Depravity, recklessness, and bloodthirstiness were burned into their faces ... Black moustachios, gigantic bearskins, and a ferocious expression were their characteristics.’ By the time of Waterloo these soldiers had an average age of thirty-five and were over 1.65 metres tall. All had twelve years service, four out of five had the Legion d’Honneur and a third had fought in over twenty campaigns.
 
Armand Jules Leveel, a student of Francois Rude (1784-1855), is best known for his large-scale bronze equestrian statue of Napoleon at Cherbourg. Susse Freres is considered to be one of the most prestigious of the Paris bronze foundries. Known for high quality castings, the foundry worked with some of the most important French sculptors of the nineteenth century including Antoine Louis Barye (1796-1875) and Mathurin Moreau (1822-1912).
 

 

Enquire