Comments on famous paintings of the Siege of Yorktown (1781),

Siege of Yorktown (1781), c.1836 oil painting by Louis Charles-Auguste Couder.

Painting is at Galerie des Batailles, Château de Versailles, France. A copy is displayed at the Yorktown National Park Service's Visitors' Center, Yorktown, Virginia.

Painting of the allied commanders at Yorktown was done c.1836 by Louis-Charles-Auguste Couder [French, 1790-1873]. A follower of the romantic school, Couder studied life portraits of the principals for this work. In the center, gesturing, is Rochambeau, with La Fayette visible behind Washington's left shoulder. Mounted in the background is a French hussar, who might be meant to be the Duc de Lauzun, who commanded a Legion that included such a light cavalry unit that was present at the siege. However, during the siege operations, Lauzun and his hussars were positioned away from the allied commanders' headquarters in front of Yorktown, and were across the York River. The hussar in Couder's painting should more appropriately represent a mounted hussar courrier.

While the background in Couder's painting is certainly imaginative, the composition of the central commanders appears to have been suggested by Blarenghe's more contemporary work [See link given below]. Couder depicts Rochambeau dress as Blarenghe's initial rendering, in which Rochambeau wears the off-white, 'field-dress' with blue coat.
Couder's rendering of the French uniforms appears to be quite accurate. No doubt Couder had access to exhibits of original uniforms, and it is obvious that he refrained from injecting the flamboyant collars, epaulets, etc. of the military officer uniforms that soon became the style a few years after the Yorktown siege of 1781. However, Couder did not have access to the uniform of George Washington, and his depiction of the American commander appears to mimic the post-1790 uniform style reflected in the works of many American artists who painted after the American Revolution.

Return to Yorktown Campaign page.
Return to Blarenghe's 'Siege of Yorktown' page.

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Expédition Particulière

10 December 2003