The Battle of the River Tchernaya

Gerolamo Induno1857/1857

Fondazione Cariplo

Fondazione Cariplo
Milan, Italy

The painting can be identified as the depiction of the battle on the River Tchernaya shown at the Esposizione di Belle Arti dell’Accademia di Brera in 1859 and bought on that occasion by Vittorio Emanuele II for his collection in the Castle of Racconigi. As Induno stated in the exhibition catalogue, the painting was based on numerous sketches that he made when serving with the Piedmontese army on its expedition to the Crimea in 1855 alongside British and French forces to defend the Ottoman Empire against Russia. While taking part as a member of the Bersaglieri corps, the painter also produced a series of panoramic views for the War Ministry, which were then turned into lithographs for the album published in 1857 to celebrate the expedition. The Crimean War was the first to be fully illustrated, as the work of artists like Induno was accompanied by the first series of war photographs taken by Roger Fenton and James Robertson. At the same time, the images of the military operations led by General Alfonso La Marmora very soon acquired symbolic significance in Italy as allusions to recent events in the struggle for national liberation and unification known as the Risorgimento. The work in the Cariplo Collection marks Induno’s debut in the genre of large-scale history painting drawing inspiration from the epic deeds of the Risorgimento, a field in which he was to become an undisputed master. Nor should it be forgotten that the painter was personally involved in the Cinque Giornate uprising in Milan, like his brother Domenico, and then took part as a volunteer in the legion led by Giacomo Medici in defence of the Roman Republic in 1849 as well as Garibaldi’s campaigns ten years later. There are various versions of the work in the Cariplo Collection (including one owned by the Banca Popolare di Novara) as well as preparatory studies. In a composition divided by the line of the horizon and dominated by the figure of General La Marmora on horseback, the painter depicted a series of episodes involving groups of soldiers in the foreground as well as two dying Russians comforted by a chaplain. The movements of troops by the River Tchernaya, where the Piedmontese fought a number of victorious actions alongside the French army, can be discerned in the glow on the horizon. While the care devoted both to the details of the uniforms and to light effects show the painter’s artistic debt to the realism of his brother Domenico’s innovative approach to historical subjects, the painting is enriched here by the epic dimension of the event illustrated, an element also to be found in depictions of other episodes of the Risorgimento, such as The Battle of Magenta (1861, Milan, Soprintendenza al Patrimonio Architettonico e Paesaggistico, on loan to the Museo del Risorgimento)


  • Title: The Battle of the River Tchernaya
  • Creator: Gerolamo Induno
  • Creator Lifespan: 1825/1890
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Milan
  • Creator Birth Place: Milan
  • Date: 1857/1857
  • Signature: Ger.mo Induno/ 1857
  • Provenance: The painting was bought in 1859 by King Vittorio Emanuele II for his collection in the Castle of Racconigi (House of Savoy Collection), Cariplo Foundation, 1954
  • Physical Dimensions: w494 x h292 cm (Without frame)
  • Exhibition History: This work was shown at the Esposizione di Belle Arti dell’Accademia di Brera in 1859 (no. 259)
  • Exhibition: Gallerie d'Italia, Piazza Scala, 6, Milano
  • Type: Painting, oil on canvas
  • Rights: http://www.artgate-cariplo.it/en/disclaimer.html
  • External Link: www.artgate-cariplo.it

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