Battle of Arab Horsemen Around a Standard
Théodore Chassériau ( French, 1819 - 1856 )
Chassériau painted this small battle scene soon after returning to France from Algeria. The subject matter reflected the violent French colonial conquest and occupation of Algeria and would have been charged with political significance for his contemporaries. Here, Chassériau sketched the central group of soldiers and horses in loose, expressive brushstrokes that mimic the swirling intensity of the closely fought battle. Grisly details—a severed head, blood-stained weapons, the wild-eyed terror of the horses—emerge from the dense composition. The surrounding landscape is, by comparison, almost formless, the mere suggestion of a backdrop for the drama of the battle.