The Battle of Waterloo
Coloured engravingpublished 1 March 1819
About the work
Place: Ministry of Defence, Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich
In the centre of this image, silhouetted against a plume of white smoke from canon-fire, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington is seen on a chestnut charger, holding a telescope in his right hand. The scene depicted is that immediately after Wellington’s order for the advance of the British troops. The foreground of the battle scene is littered with dead or injured soldiers and two fallen horses while beyond, the battle is in full progress.
The Battle of Waterloo, which ended the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, was fought on 18 June 1815 at Waterloo, in present-day Belgium. Napoleon's forces faced an Anglo-Allied British-German-Dutch army under the command of the Duke of Wellington, which also had the last-minute support of two Prussian corps commanded by Gebhard von Blücher (1742-1819). Having lost the American colonies a few decades earlier, British success at the Battle of Waterloo represented a turning point in the fortunes of Britain. It therefore came to be viewed as a defining moment in British history and was celebrated throughout the 19th century.
About the artist
Painter and etcher Alexander Sauerweid was born in Courlande, Russia. He studied at Dresden Academy and drew scenes of the battles fought in the surrounding area in the style of Vernet. In 1810, he made a series of 19 costume illustrations of the army of Westphalia; the most comprehensive contemporary uniform study of that army. In 1814, Emperor Alexander I of Russia summoned him to work in St Petersburg. Soon afterwards he visited England, where he was commissioned by Thomas Clay of Ludgate Hill, London (a seller of artist’s materials), to draw two scenes of the Battle of Waterloo. They were engraved by John William Cook and published in 1819. By 1838, Sauerweid was teaching at the St Petersburg Academy. He died in St Petersburg, aged 61.
John William Cook was a draughtsman and line engraver, who produced mainly small portrait plates. He may be the same John William Cook who owned a printing company with Frederick Wyatt, based near Tottenham Court Road, London, which was dissolved in 1860.