Meet the Emperor’s Men.
The 15 studio portraits shown here, each 12"x10"and mounted on card, are the only known surviving photographs of veterans of Napoleon's Grande Armée and Guard dressed in their uniforms and regalia. In other words, these are photographs of men who fought with Napoleon.
The pictures are part of the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection at Brown University Library.
Monsieur Loria, 24th Mounted Chasseur, Regiment Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Monsieur Loria has lost his right eye.
Monsieur Verlinde –2nd Guard Lancers 1815 or Trooper/ Lancer 2nd Chevau-legers-Lanciers de la Garde Imperiale
Monsieur Vitry, Departmental Guard
Monsieur Dreuse of 2nd Light Horse Lancers of the Guard, c. 1813-14
The photographer is unknown. It is clear, however, that the pictures were taken after 1857. Each man is wearing the Saint Helene medal, issued on August 12th, 1857 to French veterans of the wars of the Revolution and the Empire.
Monsieur Schmit, 2nd Mounted Chasseur Regiment, 1813-14
Monsieur Dupont, Fourier for the 1st Hussar
Quartermaster Sergeant Delignon, in the uniform of a Mounted Chasseur of the Guard, 1809-1815
While the exact date on which the photographs were taken is uncertain, it is highly likely to have been Wednesday May 5th, 1858. Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5th, 1821, and each year on the anniversary of his death, veterans gathered and paraded through Paris to his tomb.
Monsieur Lefebre, Sergeant 2nd Regiment of Engineers, 1815
Monsieur Maire, 7th Hussars, c. 1809-15
The event was described in The Times of London, in 1855:
"The base and railings of the column of the Place Vendôme appear this day decked out with the annual offerings to the memory of the man whose statue adorns the summit. The display of garlands of immortelles, and other tributes of the kind, is greater than usual...the old soldiers of the Empire performed their usual homage yesterday at the same place."
Monsieur Mauban, 8th Dragoon Regiment, 1815
Monsieur Ducel Mameluke de la Garde, 1813-1815
Sergeant Taria, Grenadiere de la Garde, 1809-1815
In 1858, the veterans were in their seventies and eighties. Some of the portraits suggest that the men have had their uniforms retailored over the decades to accommodate their changing body shapes.
Monsieur Moret, 2nd Regiment, 1814-15
Grenadier Burg, 24th Regiment of the Guard, 1815
The photographs belong to the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, the foremost American collection of material devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering. The collection is one of the world's largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms and was formed over a period of forty years by the late Mrs. John Nicholas Brown (1906-1985) of Providence, Rhode Island.
Quartermaster Fabry, 1st Hussars
All images: Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University, Rhode Island.