Eyewitnesses of Waterloo

June 3 2015 to September 27 2015
Waterloo hall

Rijksmuseum shows a presentation about the historical battle

foto2 Sergeant Lefebre van het tweede Regiment van Ingenieurs van Napoleons Grand Armée Onbekende fotograaf, Parijs, 1857-1858 Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library, Providence, Rhode IslandOn 18 June it will be exactly 200 years since the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was finally defeated by the allied British, Prussian, Dutch and Belgian troops near the Belgian village of Waterloo. The largest painting (5.67 x 8.23 meters) of the Rijksmuseum portrays the victory. The battle not only marked the end of Napoleon, but also the beginning of modern Europe. The Rijksmuseum will show a presentation on 200 years of Waterloo around 'The Battle of Waterloo' by Jan Willem Pieneman from 1824.

The painting depicts the main characters of the battle. The English commander Wellington, prominently displayed, hears that Prussian help is on the way. Victory over the French is therefore in sight. The Prince of Orange, later King William II, lies injured on a stretcher. His bravery earned him the nickname “the Hero of Waterloo”. Far in the background you can see the shadow of Napoleon Bonaparte. His role in world history was finally finished with this battle.

The Rijksmuseum gathers several veterans around this imposing painting. Firstly, the horse of the Prince of Orange, Wexy, Waterloo eyewitness par excellence. It is thanks to the Royal Archives that it is seen in the Rijksmuseum for the first time. Dutch veterans can be seen in a painting from 1875 that was produced when former soldiers from Den Bosch composed themselves around the bust of “the hero of Waterloo”, William II. On a series of unique photographs - a special loan from the US - fifteen French soldiers proudly look into the camera more than 40 years after the battle in full regalia. In 1857, people no longer thought of the humiliating loss of France, but rather about the glorious days under Napoleon.

foto De Slag bij Waterloo, Jan Willem Pieneman, 1824

Eyewitnesses of Waterloo also gives special attention to the making of the painting The Battle of Waterloo. Never shown pre-studies in pencil show more than the painting, an almost cinematic picture of the misery of the battlefield and the fight from man to man. Together with some studies in oil paint, we can see how Pieneman worked on this huge canvas.

Eyewitnesses of Waterloo can be seen from 3 June to 27 September 2015 in the Waterloo hall (“Waterloo-zaal”) of the Rijksmuseum.