Wellington at Sorauren, 27 July 1813
Oil on canvas by Thomas Jones Barker (1815-1882), 1853 (c).
Sorauren was an action in the Battle of the Pyrenees (25 July-2 August 1813) during the Peninsular War (1808-1814). The French commander in Spain, Marshal Soult, launched an offensive to relieve French forces besieged at Pamplona and San Sebastian. When news of the French advance reached Lieutenant-General Arthur Wellesley, Marquess (later Field Marshal The Duke) of Wellington (1769-1852), he immediately rode south. He assumed command of the British forces at the village of Sorauren near Pamplona.
Wellington is depicted being led by two local guides towards the village, accompanied by Lord Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, (later Field Marshal Baron Raglan) and his Staff. The artist based the subject on a passage from Sir Archibald Alison's History of Europe, Edinburgh (1850), which described how Wellington saw a French division moving along the crest of the mountain opposite, just above Sorauren. This prompted the allied commander-in-chief to alter the position of his own divisions. However, while writing out his orders, French dragoons entered the other end of the village and he narrowly escaped capture.
This scene of the military hero leading his troops through a mountainous landscape to victory deliberately echoes the theme of Hannibal crossing the Alps. It had been used before by the French artist, Jacques-Louis David, in his famous portrait, 'Napoleon at St Bernard', 1800 (a version of which is in the Musée du Louvre, Paris), which even included Hannibal's name in the foreground. The military hero leading his troops through a mountainous landscape to victory deliberately echoes the theme of Hannibal's crossing of the Alps.
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National Army Museum, Out of Copyright
National Army Museum, Study collection
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