Piotr Michałowski (1800–1855)
Somosierra, 1844-1855
Gift of Józefa Michałowska, 1902

material: oil on canvas

dimensions: 106 x 71 cm

description: During Napoleon’s 1808 expedition, the Emperor marched his army of forty thousand men towards the revolutionary Madrid. Their way led through the Somosierra pass in the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains of Old Castile. The Spanish forces rallied together to protect the pass. When the first assault by the French foot soldiers was staved off by the defenders, Napoleon ordered the third squadron of the Polish First Light Cavalry Regiment of the Emperor’s Guard to charge forward. 125 cavalrymen stormed up the pass, led by Jan Hipolit Kozietulski. The 8 minute long insane attack in full gallop was lethal for both the soldiers and their horses, leaving almost sixty soldiers dead or wounded. However, the way towards Madrid lay open for Napoleon. Somosierra soon became a Polish symbol of patriotic struggle, desperate bravery and bravado. The painting on display uses a deftly differentiated palette of browns to present a mountain gorge sketched with energetic broken lines, filled with a rough river of people and horses clambering up towards the pass coated in luminous mist. This bold romantic vision of the battle is a key masterpiece among Piotr Michałowski’s works dedicated to military or battle themes.

exposition: The Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art in Sukiennice,
The Cloth Hall, 1, Main Market Square

key: Romanticism. Towards national art >>>

© 2010 National Museum in Krakow
design & concept: creator.pl