The general, Count of Lariboisière, chief commander of the artillery, saying goodbye to his son on the morning of the Battle of Moskowa, September 7, 1812. (1814) by Antoine-Jean Gros (Painter)Musée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
In this painting, commissioned by the family of the models in 1814, Antoine-Jean Gros captured the last moment between a father and his son shortly before the Battle of Borodino (September 1812).
Sitting on a gun carriage, Lariboisière, although commander-in-chief of the artillery, is no longer thinking about the upcoming battle. The operation plans are dangling from his right hand. At this very moment, he is just a father aware of the danger his son is facing.
Wearing his full uniform, adorned with many decorations, Lariboisière looks thoughtful, even gentle, as he holds his son's hand to his heart.
Ferdinand is standing and wearing the uniform of an officer of the 1st regiment of the Carabiniers (similar to the British army's Dragoon Guards). On the left shoulder strap of his cuirass, the ribbon and star of the Legion of Honor is visible.
In his left hand, he's holding his red horsehair plume helmet, on which one can read the initial of his Emperor, Napoleon.
The tenacity in the eyes of the 21-year-old is clear to see. He seems prepared and willing to fight this battle and take part in the Russian campaign.
Behind them, Ferdinand's horse is waiting, held by a helmeted horseman. The apprehension of his mount is tangible—the appearance of its ears, wide eyes, and nostrils convey fear. Is his horse more aware of the impending dangers that the rider?
In the background, maneuvers are being carried out, men are getting ready … more than 120,000 soldiers are taking part in the fighting.
All of a sudden, his brothers in arms are sounding their bugles. It's time to go!
Seriously wounded during the battle, Ferdinand died six days later, on September 13, 1812, aged 21. Sick and overwhelmed with grief, his father died three months later on December 21, 1812.
Here, Antoine-Jean Gros is depicting a modest moment between a father and his son. Ferdinand's tragic fate echoes that of many other soldiers—the battle of Borodino was the largest and bloodiest battle of the Russian campaign.
A story written and edited by the teams of the Musée de l'Armée.
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