This fine portrait depicts a young lieutenant in the Cuirassiers at the time of the third republic. The Cuirassiers were mounted cavalry soldiers equipped with armour and firearms, first appearing in late 15th-century Europe, and were the successors of the medieval armoured knights; the French term meaning “the one with a cuirass” (cuirasse), the breastplate armour which they wore. They were generally seen as the senior branch of the mounted portion of an army, retaining their status as heavy cavalry. Their value as a heavy striking force during the Napoleonic Wars ensured that the French, Russian and Prussian armies continued to use cuirassier regiments throughout the 19th century.
Clermont- Gallerande was principally an equestrian and landscape artist. The composition presented here clearly reflects these interests and whilst the figure of the officer dominates the canvas it clearly is not just a depiction of an individual, but rather that of his horse and the cavalry surrounding him. Looking at his body of work it appears this is the closest the painter ever came to a type of formal portrait. Brought up in Barras, south-east France he went on to regularly exhibit at the Paris Salon from 1868-1884.