Cannon to the right of them,/
Cannon to the left of them,/
Cannon behind them/Volley’d and thunder’d;/
Storm’d at with shot and shell,/
While horse and hero fell/
They that had fought so well/Came thro’ the jaws of Death,/
Back from the mouth of Hell,/
All that was left of them,/
Left of six hundred.
Verse V. Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Charge of the Light Brigade. Published Dec 9th. 1854 in The Examiner.
This magnificent and famous image, Elizabeth Thompson's second Crimean picture, depicts the remnants of the Light Brigade returning from the disastrous charge during the battle of Balaclava, 25 October 1854. As a result of a misinterpretation of orders a force of 673 of Britain's finest cavalry was reduced by Russian forces to 195 men in just twenty minutes (actual casualty figures were 118 killed 134 wounded 221 P.o.W.). Thompson's depiction of this popular theme for artists was original, in that no officers appear and once again her concern was for the suffering and courage of ordinary soldiers.
She was engaged in research studies for the painting during July 1875. The bay horse on the left being that of Sub-Lieutenant Edward Inman (10th Royal Hussars) and Major George Smith was the model for the bearded troop sergeant riding it. The actor W. H. Pennington posed for the central figure in the painting. During the Crimea he was a trooper in the 11th Hussars one of the five regiments that took part in the charge. Thompson sketched the South Downs of Sussex, which resembled the North Valley behind Balaclava, where the charge took place, between Causeway Heights and the Fedioukine Hills.
First shown, not at the Royal Academy, but at the Fine Art Society Gallery on Bond St., London. The FAS. staked their future on exhibiting and the acquiring the rights to the painting that they paid £3,000 for the copyright. Interestingly the painting was criticized after its unveiling in 1876 as being too dramatic with a posed central figure "Deaf to the calls of his comrades.... dazed and drunk with the wine of battle, he marches on clenching his bloodied sword" Sunday Times. (The original painting is housed in the Manchester City Archives) Thompson had portrayed a level of realism that a British soldier bore disturbing signs of mental derangement from the fray, that was then still unacceptable. None of the criticism affected the popularity of the painting however, 50,000 viewed it in London and by the time it reached Liverpool in the following year, 100,000 had queued to see the painting. The Fine art society first published the engraving with the date 20 April 1876 (size 25 x 40” 63.5 x 101.6 cm)
20 x 37 ¾” (50.8 x 95.6 cm.) excluding letters. 29 x 46 ½" Paper size. Double museum matted, original period glazing, Splendid period gilt-wood and gesso frame 34 ½ x 52”