Episode of the naval battle of Navarino. (Copy after Jean-Charles LANGLOIS)
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet
Publication date: March 2016
Navarino and the question of Greece
The whole of the Mediterranean East was, at the beginning of the XIXe century, possession of the Ottoman Empire. In 1830, the independence of Greece was definitively acquired thanks to the support of the European Philhellenic nations.
Colonel Langlois, painter of contemporary history
Langlois had fought in the armies of the Empire. Put on half pay in 1815, he began a career as a painter (he studied first with Girodet and Horace Vernet, then with Gros), specializing in the representation of military events. He exhibited at the Salon from 1822, while resuming his military career (he participated in the Algiers expedition in 1830 and was appointed lieutenant-colonel in 1834). A good connoisseur of his subject, he thus produced characteristic works of a genre re-honored by the battles of the Revolution and the Empire, commemorated by the orders of Napoleon, then, above all, those of Louis-Philippe when 'he created the museum of the history of France in Versailles. The Battle of Navarino Episode is characteristic of a representation which wants to be at the same time exact, in the rendering of the decoration, at the very least realistic (Langlois has not yet made the trip to Greece, he served in Illyria in 1810), and picturesque , with the episode of the foreground which favors the implication of the spectator and his identification with the combatants: a broken vessel on the debris of which the Turks and the Egyptians seek to escape. One of them, on the right, standing with closed fists, turns his head to the left, helpless in defeat. In the background the battle itself, with a ship which jumps, another in flames.
The panorama painter
Langlois has made a specialty of panoramas, vast circular paintings several meters high and several tens of meters long. Presented in specially constructed rotundas, the panoramas aimed to give the viewer the illusion of being in a particular place (London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow ...) or, better still, in a precise historical scene, most often a battle. . To this device could be added lighting effects, sound effects or the inclusion of real decorative elements (gun carriages, guns, cart wheels ...). The first panorama presented by Langlois was precisely that of the Battle of Navarin, the central platform being supposed to be the poop of the ship. Scipio, who had actually participated in the combat. This choice was not due to chance: the Battle of Navarino was one of the first French victories after Waterloo and testifies to a naval power which was lacking in Trafalgar. Through the dramatic effect it produces, this historical painting thus recreates a spectacle that prefigures certain ingenuities of cinematography. Witness of the last naval battle of the sailing age, this panorama has however disappeared.
- Bonaparte (Napoleon)
- Louis Philippe
- naval combat
Bruno FOUCART (dir.), A painter of the Napoleonic epic. Colonel Langlois, 1789-1870.Collections of the Langlois Museum Caen, Bernard Giovanangeli-Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt-Marmottan Library, Boulogne-Billancourt, 2000 Bernard COMMENT The 19th Century of panoramas Paris, Adam Biro, 1993.Greece in revolt, Delacroix and the French painters: 1815-1848 exhibition catalog, Paris, RMN, 1996.
To cite this article
Barthélemy JOBERT and Pascal TORRÈS, "Episode of the naval battle of Navarino"