One of the bloodiest battles of the First Empire – the Battle of Eylau (or Battle of Preussish-Eylau in East Prussia; nowadays – town Bagrationovsk in Kaliningrad province, Russia) between the French and the Russians – took place on the 7-8th of February 1807.
On the following day Napoleon writes to his wife Josephine: “To the Empress in Paris /Eylau, 3 a.m., 9 February 1807 /”My dear, /yesterday there was a big battle; I obtained a victory but lost many of my soldiers. Knowing that the enemy’s casualties are even greater is of no consolation to me. However, I am writing these few lines to you myself to tell you that I am in good health and that I love you. /Ever yours. /Napoleon” .
And indeed, the Emperor was so deeply affected by the sight of the battlefield that he decided to remain eight (!) whole days at Eylau, in order to ensure that everything possible was done to take care of the wounded, French and Russian alike without distinction.
In his second letter to his wife, dated 14th of February 1807 (six days after the battle), we read the following: “My dear, I am still at Eylau. The country is covered with dead and wounded. It is the worst aspect of war. It is heartbreaking and my soul is oppressed at the sight of so many victims” (45,000 on both sides).
Adolphe (Adolphe-Eugene-Gabriel) Roehn (Röhn) was born in 1780 in Paris. There is no information available to art historians about the first nineteen years of his life. It is, however, known that in 1799 he was exhibiting at the Salon. He continued to exhibit his works there until 1866 – a year before his death in the Parisian suburb of Malakoff. The scarcity of information about Roehn’s life led the majority of authors writing about him to call him an autodidact.
Adolphe Roehn’s fame caught up with him in the years of the 1st Empire (1804/15). In that period he created his (then-to-become) widely known and most important works: “Entrevue de Napoleon Ier et du tsar Alexandre Ier de Russie sur le Niemen” (“Meeting in Tilsit in May 1807”), “Bivouac de Napoleon Ier sur le champ de bataille de Wagram. Nuit du 5 au 6 jullier 1809” (“Napoleon’s bivouac by Wagram. Night of 5/6 July 1809”), “Entrée de Napoleon I et de l’armée francaise a Dantzig, le 27 mai 1807” (“Entry of Napoleon I and the French Army to Danzig. 27 May 1807”), and “Hopital militaire francais a Marienbourg. Juin 1807” (“French military hospital in Marienburg. June 1807”).
Also in 1809 he completed the painting for Marshal Berthier. In 1812 he painted “Capture of Lerida” for Marshal Suchet and produced a number of other important works on commissions of the State or various prominent persons. Later in life he became a Professor of Drawing at the Lyceum Louis-le-Grand in Paris and, in 1832, was made a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur.
Apart from Salon, he regularly exhibited his works in other locations. For example, in 1824 Roehn received exhibition medal in the city of Lille and, in 1826, in Douai.