This engraving dramatises the departure of Sir Fenwick Williams, a prominent British army officer during the Crimean War, from the town of Kars in north-eastern Turkey. Williams had first visited Turkey in 1841, when he served in the arsenal at Constantinople. After being made British Commissioner for the settlement of the Turko-Persian boundary in 1848, he was appointed British Commissioner with the Turkish army in Asia Minor in 1854. He visited Kars in September of that year, leaving his aide-de-camp there over the winter while he returned to negotiate supplies for the troops in anticipation of the expected Russian siege.
In January 1855 Williams was made a lieutenant or ‘ferik’ in the Turkish army, as well as a pasha, and set out for Kars in June, as soon as he heard news of the Russian advance on the town. Although the attack was driven back at first, the fortress of Kars was besieged. On 22 November Williams learnt that there were no chances of relief and capitulated. He was imprisoned in Russia, before being allowed to return to Britain.
Williams was made Baronet of Kars in 1856. Napoleon III awarded him the grand cross of the Légion d’honneur and the Sultan gave him the first class of order of the Mejidiye.
Thomas Jones Barker was born in Bath, Somerset, the son of painter Thomas Barker of Bath. He was taught by his father, before studying in Paris under Horace Vernet. He remained in Paris, exhibiting at the Salon, and painted works for King Louis Philippe. After returning to London in 1845, he exhibited at the Royal Academy. He was best known for scenes of war and painted records of the Napoleonic Wars, Franco-Prussian War and the Crimean War. Barker’s principle patrons were publishers, who commissioned, toured and reproduced his works. Today, his most celebrated painting is ‘The Secret of England’s Greatness’ (c.1862), showing Victoria presenting a bible to an African man. Barker died in north-west London, just before his 69th birthday.
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