The Relief of the Light Brigade, 25 October 1854
Oil on canvas by Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927), 1897.
Of all British military engagements during the nineteenth century, the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaklava remains the most notorious. One of the most spectacular of military disasters, surrounded by controversy as to its cause, the tragic charge of the British light cavalry regiments along the 'valley of death' under murderous fire from the Russian guns was genuinely heroic. The legend of the 'gallant 600' remains deeply rooted in the public mind today, some 150 years later.
Contemporary pictures of the Charge are few and they fail to convey more than a distant 'bird's-eye view' of the action. It was left to the most dramatic exponent of military art in the late-Victorian era, Richard Caton Woodville, to capture the supreme moment of the Charge, when the British troopers, depleted by the murderous fire of Russian artillery overlooking their route, finally arrived at the far end of the valley to cross swords with the enemy. Widely reproduced, this is still the most popular image of the event today. It was originally reproduced as a chromolithograph Supplement to 'Holly Leaves, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News' Christmas Number 1897, entitled 'The Relief of the Light Brigade'.
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