Rouen Museum of Fine Arts © RMN-Grand Palais / Gérard Blot

Retreat from Russia in 1835, painting by Joseph-Ferdinand Boissard de Boisdenier

For horse and man, the retreat from Russia was one of the worst episodes in military history. The stories are many of soldiers who, to stay alive and avoid freezing, opened the stomachs of recently dead horses to be wrapped into their still-warm entrails. On this canvas, Joseph-Ferdinand Boissard de Boisdenier took on a realistic approach to the tragic episode of the retreat from Russia. A Hussar and an Imperial Guard cavalry soldier remain powerless against death and cold, while their company continues travelling in the distance. Lying on a dead horse, they were gradually numbed by the cold. The emaciated face of the man in red trousers is as rigid as the muscles of the horse on which he lies, erasing the difference between man and animal enveloped by the same fate.