This high quality painting shows in the foreground a wounded Mamluk (Ottoman warrior) and his war horse. In the background you can see an episode of the battle taking place in front of an Egyptian pyramid.
As it's known, during the Egyptian campaign of Napoleon, the famous Battle of the Pyramids took place in 1798, when the French army completely defeated the Mameluke troops (Egypt was then part of the Ottoman Empire) under command of Murad Bey. 20,000 Turks ( including 6000 cavalry) died in this battle, on the part of the French losses totaled only 29 soldiers.
Our work was acquired at the sale of the famous Vienna auction house Dorotheum in 2019 as a painting by an unknown artist of 19th century. At the beginning of our research due to the style and motive we attributed its authorship to famous French military and horse painter Horace Vernet (1789-1863) or an artist of his circle. Because the painting was in original dirty condition with few minor old retouching we send it for restoration. To our surprise, during the restoration and removal of the retouching in the lower right corner of the painting the restorer revealed the original author's signature and dating: "Carl Nahl 1844".
Now, after this discovery, we are completely sure that this painting was executed in 1844 by important German-American historical artist Carl (Charles) Christian Nahl (1818 Cassel, Germany - 1878 San Francisco, USA). There are different paintings depicted The battle of Pyramids : by Francois Louis Joseph Watteau, Dirk Lagendijk, Louis Francois Lejeune and Anteine-Jean Gros. Because all of them were created by authors 35-45 years earlier as our painting, we assume, that this painting by Carl Nahl is a later Historicism author's version of this event.
After his emigration to the United States, Nahl was described as the "first major California artist." He devoted himself to different artistic genres.
Nahl came from a German family that had repeatedly produced significant artists in the fields of interior design, sculpture and visual representation of all kinds since the 17th century. His great-grandfather was the sculptor Johann August Nahl the Elder and his grandfather the sculptor and painter Johann August Nahl the Younger. Several of his ancestors had professorships at the Kassel Art Academy or even headed them.
The apparently very talented Carl Christian Heinrich (baptismal name) was already an accomplished watercolorist at the age of 12. He also studied at the Kassel Art Academy. The economic situation and the political unrest prompted him to leave his hometown Kassel in 1846 with his family and his friend, the artist Frederick August Wenderoth and move to Paris. With him was his 15-year-old half-brother Hugo Wilhelm Arthur Nahl , who later also became known as a painter and accompanied Carl Christian in all his other stages of life. In Paris Carl took the name Charles. This fact and dating 1844 proves that our painting, signed Carl Nahl, was executed by Nahl during his life in Cassel, before his moving to Paris.
Nahl studied in Paris with Paul Delaroche and Horace Vernet (this is reason, why we attributed it at first to the hand of H.Vernet) and exhibited his works in the famous Salon de Paris. The political turmoil of the French February Revolution drove the trio again. They left France and took a ship to USA in 1848/1849. In New York they heard of the gold strike. Rahl arrived in Nevada City, California the next year, and then moved to Rough and Ready, California. Here, he purchased a "salted" mine. Having no luck along the Yuba River, Nahl and Hugo opened a studio with Wenderoth in Sacramento, moving to San Francisco after the 1852 Sacramento fire. (There is an illustration of the fire by Arthur) and made his living with lithographs and illustrations for the local newspaper and magazines. In 1852, a fire destroyed most of Sacramento. Nahl moved on to San Francisco, opened a new studio and from then on devoted himself to his painting and commercial commissions with his brother Hugo and artist friend August Wenderoth. The artistic collaboration with Wenderoth is documented in the paintings Miner's Cabin, Result of the Day and Miners in the Sierra.
From 1853, many portrait paintings were made, sometimes in the style of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, also in collaboration with his brother Arthur, who acted as an assistant. “We work like a workshop; Carl paints the heads, I paint the clothes ... ”Arthur wrote to Wilhelm Nahl in Kassel in 1853. However, this "mass production" was also responsible for the inconsistency and lack of vitality of many works. The dramatic painting Fire in San Francisco Bay from 1856 is also the result of a collaboration between the two brothers, who the Americans referred to briefly as "The Nahl Brothers". In addition, there were also prints, such as the woodcut "Grizzly", which was published in Hutching's Illustrated California Magazine (Vol 1, No. 3, p. 106).
Between the 1860s and 1870s, Charles Christian Nahl was one of the most successful painters in California. His academic, European style was valued and the paintings with the motifs that he obtained from literature, history and classic mythology were among the preferred equipment attributes of the villas of prominent families. One of his greatest sponsors was the art collector Edwin Bryant Crocker from Sacramento, who was known as a lover of European painting. The works he acquired are now in the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.
Charles Christian Nahl died of typhoid fever in San Francisco on March 1, 1878.
Literature: artist lexicons by Thieme/Becker: Saur (both in German), on-line wikipedia in German and English: in English: Moreland L Stevens: Charles Christian Nahl: Artist of the Gold Rush, 1818-1878, exhibition catalogue,1976; Janice Tolhurst Driesbach, Art of the Gold Rush, Oakland Museum, Crocker Art Museum, National Museum of American Art, University of California Press, 1998.
Inscription: signed and dated lower right: Carl Nahl 1844.
Technique: oil on canvas. Luxuriousy original period gold-plated frame.
Measurements: unframed w 35 5/8" x h 29" (90,5 x 73,5 cm), , framed w 43 1/4" x h 36 5/8" (110 x 93 cm).
Condition: very good, professionally cleaned original canvas.