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The General's Mistress

Whenever I'm working on a book I collect pictures. They help me visualize what I'm describing, or who I'm describing, but more importantly they give me a sense of what the culture feels like, especially when the pictures are original artwork from that culture. Usually, with my ancient world books, actual portraits are few and far between, and certainly can't be found for my main characters. A bust of Caesar, yes, but there is no image of Charmian. There are statues of Alexander, but none absolutely positively identified as Hephaistion, not even one that we are certain of.

Moving into the 18th century meant suddenly having tons of pictures to work with! Sadly, many of them are still formal and static. (Only one of my main characters in the Age of Revolution books lived into the age of photography and had a photo done.) But some of them are wonderful likenesses brimming with personality, especially in details of battle scenes, the "action photography" of the time, where people other than the main subject were portrayed more realistically and less idealistically.

This is a detail from the painting "Moreau at Hohenlinden". It shows both of Elza's main love interests in The General's Mistress, and toward the end of the book we will be at Hohenlinden ourselves with Elza and the boys!

The man on the light colored horse is Victor Moreau, the general of the title, gesturing to the field with a stylized gesture that seems to say, "Look! It's a battle!" On the right on the brown horse with his back to us is Michel, long red hair in a pony tail and looking like a guy who hasn't slept or shaved in three days. His expression says, "Dude, I know."



You can click on the picture to make it bigger.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
aishabintjamil
Feb. 25th, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
The horse is actually telling us things too. That's almost certainly not a random pose. It's probably a maneuver called a piaffe. There's a video clip here showing it another maneuver called the levade, which is also popular with painters and sculptors, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv-IydpCLm8

Painting generals and so forth mounted and performing these maneuvers was a combination of flattery and a shorthand to tell the viewer "this is the important guy," whether or not the person actually had the skills to do them in real life. They are maneuvers that require a *very* high level of riding skill/coordination/training, and a highly trained horse.
jo_graham
Feb. 26th, 2012 01:05 pm (UTC)
Oh good point! And Moreau is definitely the star of this scene.
the_stowaway
Feb. 25th, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC)
GREAT caption.

The man on the light colored horse is Victor Moreau, the general of the title, gesturing to the field with a stylized gesture that seems to say, "Look! It's a battle!" On the right on the brown horse with his back to us is Michel, long red hair in a pony tail and looking like a guy who hasn't slept or shaved in three days. His expression says, "Dude, I know."

Hee!
jo_graham
Feb. 26th, 2012 01:06 pm (UTC)
That would be Michel.... :)
cadenzamuse
Feb. 26th, 2012 04:50 pm (UTC)
I keep falling more in love with Michel. Le sigh...
jo_graham
Feb. 27th, 2012 06:50 pm (UTC)
He's not actually handsome. But.

There is always that but! :)
chiliarch
Feb. 27th, 2012 01:41 pm (UTC)
The Napoleonic Era is a goldmine of fabulous paintings with beautiful (and where Murat is concerned rather fanciful) uniforms and magnificent horses.

Michel manages to look quite unperturbed in all the paintings, even the ones depicting the retreat from Moscow. He was rock-solid.
jo_graham
Feb. 27th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
There really are beautiful paintings, aren't there? Michel does always look unperturbed, like he's seen it all before. Which perhaps he has!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )