The Uniform Plates of Vernet - Lami: The French Army 1791 - 1815
By Yves Martin
Editor's Note: Yves Martin, a regular contributor to the Napoleon Series, who is an avid collector and one of the foremost experts on Napoleonic uniform plates. He has very generously allowed us to place Volume 1 of the Vernet - Lami uniform plates on the Napoleon Series! Enjoy!
About the Plates
These plates were published in 1821 under the name Collection des uniformes 1791 - 1814. This version was done on slate-grey paper, lithographed and then hand-coloured with gouache. Strictly speaking it is not a primary source since they were not exactly contemporary. However, the plates provides a fairly good vision for the latter part of the Empire and is not yet in the Romantic style which can be seen for example in the illustrations used for Marco de Saint-Hilaire's book on the Imperial Guard. The accompanying text is also worthy of notice as it truly is a text about uniforms. Of special notice is the part on the Armée d'Orient which includes Kleber's ordre du jour with the various color schemes for each demi-brigade - probably the first widespread mention of this. Glasser called this "probably the finest suite ever done on the French army" and I tend to agree - the illustrators were the Vernets (both Carle and Horace) and Eugene Lami. Carle Vernet worked on the illustrations of the Bardin regulations and was thus in a prime position to depict those uniforms. Both Horace Vernet and Eugene Lami were still in their early years during the days of the Empire, yet, old enough to remember and be good witnesses.
About the Artists
Antoine-Charles Horace Vernet (better known as Carle Vernet) was born in 1789 and according to Philip Haythornthwaite in Who was Who in the Napoleonic Wars was "...a distinguished historical painter and lithographer, perhaps best known as a painter of horses and as a caricaturist, but his military work was extensive, including battle-scenes (his painting of Austerlitz was rewarded by Napoleon with the Légion d'honneur)." He painted numerous uniform studies, in addition to the ones portrayed below. These studies included ones on the French Bardin Regulations of 1812, Recueil de chevaux de tout genre (on Guard and line cavalry), troops occupying Paris from 1815 - 1821, and Cossacks. His numerous battle paintings include: Eve of Austerlitz, Napoleon before Madrid, and ones on Arcole and Marengo. He died in 1836 at the age of 78.
Emile Jean Horace Vernet (best known as Horace Vernet) was born in 1789 and was the son of Carle Vernet. Henry Lachouque in his Anatomy of Glory wrote that he joined his father in painting the uniform studies Recueil de chevaux de tout genre and with his father and Eugene Lami in Collection des uniformes 1791 - 1814. He was the official painter of the 2nd Empire and painted numerous battle scenes that hang in the Versailles, such as Jemappes, Valmy, and Hanau. He died in 1863.
Eugene Lami was born in 1800 and was a pupil of both Antoine Gros and Horace Vernet. He collaborated with both Carl and Horace Vernet for Collection des uniformes 1791 - 1814 and 1814-24. He also published 10 cavalry plates in 1831 and 20 in 1835. Henry Lachouque in his Anatomy of Glory states "His battle pictures among best in Versailles (Siège d'Anvers, etc.)" He died in 1890.
Copyright Notice: These images are protected by the Napoleon Series copyright and may not be used in any commercial enterprise without the permission of Yves Martin.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2000
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