Brussels Waterloo [drawing]
Brussels Waterloo

Pen and ink, approx. ? × ? cm (image only). The editors of the Library Edition describe the image as “a sketch of the field of Waterloo; soldiers with cannon in the foreground; a general on his horse” (Ruskin, Works, 2:347 n. 1). While Ruskin certainly intends the drawing to depict a scene from the Battle of Waterloo, which is mentioned in “Brussels”—both in the prose section following the drawing, and in the poem preceding it—he based his drawing on J. M. W. Turnerʼs vignette, “Marengo”, depicting the Battle of Marengo, which was engraved for and published in Samuel Rogers, Italy (1830) (p. 17; and see no. 6 of catalog in Piggott, Turnerʼs Vignettes, 98). Ruskin omits the left side of Turnerʼs original drawing, copying only the general on his rearing horse and the group gathered around the cannon on the right. In order to resituate the scene in Waterloo, Ruskin also omits the Alps that Turner shows in the north above the Piedmont plain; instead, he places a town in the distance, probably intended as Brussels, shown with its two large cathedral towers in silouette. By adapting Turnerʼs scene to Waterloo, Ruskin intensifies Turnerʼs irony. The Battle of Marengo was a decisive victory for Napoleon in his second Italian campaign against the Austrians, allegedly causing the British prime minister, William Pitt (1759–1806), to declare with resignation, “Fold up that map”, meaning that the French general had effectively conquered all of Europe (Piggott, Turnerʼs Vignettes, 38). Turner undermines this victory by placing this vignette above Rogersʼs poem, “The Descent”, referring literally to the descent from the mountains into Piedmont, but gesturing figuratively at Napoleonʼs eventual fall. Ruskin completes Turnerʼs ironic narrative by bringing the image forward in time to Waterloo; and he may have meant the viewer to displace Napoleon as the equestrian figure (which Turner based on the portrait by Jacques–Louis David [1748–1825], Napoleon Crossing the Alps [1802–5]) and to put the victorious Wellington in the saddle. The figure appears to wear his bicorne with the points “fore and aft” in Wellingtonʼs manner, rather than side to side and parallel with the shoulders in Napoleonʼs signature manner.