The scene of a duel between two French officers could have taken place during the 1st Bourbon Restoration; such incidents were quite common in this period: some of the officers who remained loyal to Napoleon (he was then exiled on Elba) were known to challenge their political opponents – officers who instead swore allegiance to Bourbons – to duels.
This scene evokes similar from the famous 1977 film “The Duellists” starring Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel.
It has been suggested that the author of this drawing could well be the famous French horse and military artist of the early 19th century, Horace Vernet.
Horace (full name: Emile Jean Horace) Vernet was born in 1789 in Paris into a family of famous French horse and battle painter Carle (Antoine Charles Horace) Vernet. Fittingly, he was born in the Louvre, while his parents were staying there during the French Revolution. Vernet quickly developed a disdain for the high-minded seriousness of academic French art which was influenced by Classicism, and decided to paint subjects taken mostly from contemporary culture.
Therefore, he began depicting the French soldier in a more familiar, vernacular manner rather than in an idealized, Davidian fashion. Some of his paintings that represent French soldiers in a less idealized and romantic style, include “Dog of the Regiment”, “Trumpeter’s Horse”, and “Death of Poniatowski”.
He gained recognition during the Bourbon Restoration for a series of battle paintings commissioned by the duc d’Orleans, the future King Louis-Philippe. Critics marveled at the incredible speed with which he painted. Many of his paintings made during this early phase of his career were considered to combine anecdotal accuracy with a charged romantic landscape. Examples of paintings in this style include “Battle of Valmy”, “Battle of Jemappes”, “Battle of Montmirail”.
Over the course of his long career, Horace Vernet was honored with dozens of important commissions. King Louis-Philippe was one of his most prolific patrons. His depictions of Algerian battles, such as the “Capture of the Smahla” and the “Capture of Constantine”, were well-received, as they were vivid depictions of the French army in the heat of battle. After the fall of the July Monarchy during the Revolution of 1848, Vernet discovered a new patron in Napoléon III of France. He continued to paint representations of the heroic French army during the Second Empire and maintained his commitment to representing war in an accessible and realistic way. He accompanied the French Army during the Crimean War, producing several paintings, including one of the Battle of the Alma.
Vernet died in his hometown of Paris in 1863.