Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Storming of Constantine - 13 October 1837

Today is the anniversary of the storming of Constantine in 1837, during the French conquest of Algeria.

The painting is by Horace Vernet, probably the outstanding chronicler on canvas of France’s Algerian wars in the 1830s and 1840s. It shows the scene in the breach in the city’s walls as the French troops storm in. The picture is packed with all kinds of fascinating details. For example, note the sharp contrast between the dark blue of the officers’ frock coats and the blue-grey of the other ranks’ greatcoats. Note also the engineers in dark blue long-tailed coats.

The officer standing at the head of the breach, urging his men on and wearing a Zouave chechia and short greatcoat is Lieutenant Colonel Louis de Lamoricière.

According to the late Dr Paddy Griffith, Lamoricière was an imaginative engineer who had arrived with the first invasion, learned Arabic and made his name with the Zouaves. The Zouaves in turn owed much of their fame to him, as the embodiment of the Armée d’Afrique’s unconventional and colourful style.

The French wiki entry on Lamoricière is here.

This statue of Lamoricière was erected at Constantine in 1909, opposite the site of the breach. In 1962, following the grant of independence to Algeria, it was moved to Saint-Philbert de Grand Lieu, near Nantes in western France where Lamoricière is buried.


  1. Hello, the first pictures is my maine image on my computer in my office! It takes place a few minutes before the great mine's explosion, wich killed 50 men, and hurted La moricière .

    The difference beetween soldiers in "capote" and in "tunique" is the diffence beetween the colours : "gris de fer" and "gris de fer bleuté"!! the words seems to be the same but not the colours!!!


  2. Paco

    I was sure that you would know the Vernet painting and I am glad that you like it. I was aware of the mine explosion, but had not known exactly when it occurred.