OMG! They’re nekkid!

Malplaquet battle

Malplaquet battle

I thought I had exhausted Google’s Image search on Malplaquet, but I apparently missed this image.

DuBosc engraving of Laguerre painting (click to enlarge)

DuBosc engraving of Laguerre painting (click to enlarge)

It’s a bit more interesting because it’s a  later 18C engraving of the original painting (c. 1713). Its higher-resolution and more stark lines provide a bit more detail. Noteworthy tidbits:

  • There’s definitely fighting in them thar’ woods.
  • The naked bodies are apparently being picked over by a woman (note the dress), who is fending off a pistol shot from a cavalier. Now I’m imagining women sneaking around the battlefield, dispatching the wounded to more easily acquire their plunder.
  • I’m assuming a large part of this particular nakedness relates to the composition of the work, as the woman and the bodies (along with the tree behind it) pretty neatly divide the image into two parts. The divider is more clear in Laguerre’s original, and is a bit muddled in DuBosc’s image because of the checker-red standard.
  • DuBosc changed the colors of some of the clothing, even reversing the blue and red on occasion, as with the cavalier shooting at the plunderer. Not sure how to interpret this. Laguerre, for example, has blue coats and red coats working together to lift the logs, whereas DuBosc turns them all red. I’m not sure if Laguerre’s buff coats around the cannon are supposed to be civilians (i.e. wagoneers), or just had different uniforms on…
  • The defender’s flag on the right appears to have changed from some kind of large white cross in Laguerre to small (presumably fleur-de-lis) in DuBosc’s engraving.
  • The officer on the far left (pointing) also apparently has a horse of gold now. Nice. Alternately, it looks like a lot of the white objects were turned yellow in the engraving (yet the clouds and perruques remain white).

So is all this artistic crap random? Thoughts?


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9 responses to “OMG! They’re nekkid!”

  1. jostwald says :

    Apparently I’m not the only one to wonder. Here’s an abstract (only) of a paper comparing/contrasting these murals at Marlborough House with the more famous Blenheim Tapestries.

  2. Wienand Drenth says :

    My best guess is that DuBosc allowed himself some artistic license. You say that the original was a painting, and that the later version was an engraving. So, that means that it had to be colored afterwards (I assume, I never paid much attention at art lessons in highschool). Here the painter, if not the same person as DuBosc, may have taken some liberties in colors of uniforms. Maybe this one was colored on request, and the client likes these colors. Do you know about more copies of these later engraving? Here is another version of Laguerre: with some different uniforms.

    I don’t know much about uniforms, but it seems the later version has more red (also in the background), and it is the reds that are stabbing and shooting. In my perception, red would refer to the British. But that is speculation of course.
    At home I have a colored engraving from the 1600s showing Spaniard capturing a fort near Nijmegen. But from what I have been told, is that the coloring was random at best, and did not represent actual flags and that sort of things 🙂

    • jostwald says :

      Thanks. Comic books have separate pencillers and inkers, I mean that’s what I heard from some nerd acquaintance once.

      But are you allowed to admit you don’t know much about uniforms? Won’t they take away your military historian card for that? Personally, I feared to jump to the redcoats trope, in case some uniform know-it-all says “But they weren’t standard issue until 1711, and this painting is clearly portraying Malplaquet in 1709! So there!”

      • Gene Hughson says :

        Uniforms weren’t really uniform until well into the 19th century, so I think he’s safe 😉

      • Wienand Drenth says :

        Hm, let me try to re-gain my military historian card: for the French, I know that white/grey was a common color for the uniforms, just as red was the color for the British, and blue for the Dutch. With some imagination, the sashes/decoration worn by the blues may be colored orange. Looking better at the ‘woman’, I agree with Gene it is more likely a man. What may be a skirt, may also be the back /lower end of the coat, as we see in the grenadier in the front-center.

      • jostwald says :

        Yeah, I’ve gone back and forth over the gender. The “skirt” does look like the grenadiers’ in the foreground, and the sleeve cuffs look the same too. If only we could see his/her legs. Or maybe it’s Mother Ross!

        Regarding uniform colors, DuBosc’s image has a much clearer background (left) than Laguerre’s, and his lines of troops are solidly red vs.solidly blue.

      • jostwald says :

        For what it’s worth, a photographic reproduction of the canvas design that the mural was based on (in Jeri Bapasola, Threads of History: The Tapestries of Blenheim Palace, 89) provides more detail.

        Every identifiable soldier is wearing red except one, the trooper (foreground left) slashing downward is wearing blue in the canvas version. The commander on the left (Marlborough one presumes, since he has that classic “commander’s pose” of pointing off to the side), is in blue in the mural, but red in the canvas design.
        (The canvas version in the National Army Museum appears very similar to the original canvas design: ).

        There are minor differences regarding the dead, e.g. the poses of their arms are different.
        Interestingly, the figure looming over the dead and attempting to ward off the pistol shot is clear in the canvas version (except for the head which is a red blob): he’s wearing a bandolier and blue pants. So presumably intended to be a soldier, possibly French, since he wears a brownish uniform which seems to be what the other French troops have.

        Interesting how the design gets changed in the process. I sure hope Laguerre didn’t change anything Sarah approved in the original canvas version! She’s been known to withhold a payment in her day.

    • Björn Thegeby says :

      Not an expert either, but I had the impression that apart from the Guards, the Dutch generally wore white(ish), presumably natural wool?. The French on the other hand were more mixed but often blue during the WSS. I think they went white a bit later in the 18th century. Happy to be corrected.

  3. Gene Hughson says :

    “So is all this artistic crap random?”

    There’s an old saying that there’s always three stories: yours, mine, and what really happened. Throw a journalist in there and you can get a fourth which will bear little resemblance to the other three. I’d imagine there’s a strong element of that in there as well.

    Wienand’s comment “In my perception, red would refer to the British” may hold an explanation. The publisher of the engraving may have “corrected” the painting, either thinking that the painting was “wrong” or that the audience would get confused.

    Also, not sure that that the scavenger is a woman – in the painting it looks a bit like a kilt and the pleats of the officer’s coat (on the white/gold charger) aren’t that different from the “skirt” of the looter.

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