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A Chasseur à Cheval de la Garde Impériale - Hippolyte Bellangé, 1830

Watercolour on paper. Study of a mounted officer of the Chasseur à Cheval de la Garde Impériale jumping a wall with infantry and artillery in the background and a casualty in the foreground. (12.5cm x 17cm) Signed lower right. 

Napoleon called the Chasseurs-a-Cheval (1er Regiment de Chasseurs-a-Cheval de la Garde Impériale) ‘the best regiment in the world’ and ‘my invincibles’. It was the Chasseurs that usually formed his personal escort and an important reserve in battle. In recognition of its service, Napoleon often wore the regiment’s uniform. His near capture during the pursuit of the Austrians in northern Italy in the spring of 1796 convinced him of the need to form a special unit to guard the army’s headquarters on campaign. Thus, in May 1796, two units, the Guides à Pied and the Guides à cheval were created for this task. With the formation of the Consular Guard in 1799, came the creation of the Chasseur à cheval de la Garde des Consuls, consisting of veterans of the Guides à cheval and personnel drawn from other units. In 1804, the unit was retitled the Chasseurs à cheval de la Garde Imperial. The regiment fought in Italy, Egypt, Central Europe, Spain, Russia, France, and at Waterloo, to become one of the most famous French regiments of Napoleonic Wars. A second regiment (2e Regiment de Chasseurs-a-Cheval de la Garde Impériale) was created briefly from Regiment d'Eclaireurs Lanciers in 1815.

Joseph Louis Hippolyte Bellangé (1800-1866) belonged to the post Napoleonic generation typified by Stendhal in his sense of anti-climax that followed the tumultuous years of the Revolution and the Napoleonic adventure. As a painter and printmaker he specialized in military subjects that reflected the glories of the Premier Empire. He was heavily influenced by the battle paintings of Baron Gros, and with the exception of some portraits, devoted himself exclusively to battle-pieces. He was made an Officer of the Legion D’Honneur under the Second Empire.

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