Matavai Bay, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Signed in pen and brown ink with initials and dated l.r.: JW.RA./July.1814-, inscribed: Cossack/Tamorfait. Carborlof/King Street Barracks, and again l.c.: It was stated that this man killed/ 14 Frenchmen one morn.g [sic] before breakfast-, pencil
This is a study for a figure in an oil painting, commissioned by the Duke of Northumberland, entitled Portraits of Prince Platoff’s favourite charger and of Four of his Cossacks (in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle). This oil was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1815 (no. 148).
After Napoleon’s defeat in April 1814 and the ensuing Treaty of Fontainebleau and Peace of Paris, the Prince Regent invited the Allied sovereigns, including Emperor Alexander I of Russia, to London from 6 to 27 June. There were great festivities and the Emperor threw a lavish levée at the house of the Duke of Cumberland which cost £25,000.
Alexander I was accompanied by members of his retinue, who were housed in King Street Barracks (home to the Royal Life Guards) to the north of Portman Square. Their distinctive costumes aroused much comment. Ward clearly shared this interest as he depicted this soldier on at least four other occasions. There is another head and shoulders drawing of him in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (which originally belonged to the Duke of Wellington, P D41-1991) and a full-length study of him seated in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (WA1938.107). Further examples of drawings and sketches of his colleague Gregory Yelloserf are in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven and in a private collection. An oil of Matvei Ivanovitch, Count Platov in the uniform of a Cossack general by Peter Edward Stroehling (1768–c. 1826), which was probably commissioned by George IV, is in the Royal Collection.
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