Ludwig Klimsch came from a German family of artists based in Frankfurt. The youngest son Ferdinand Karl Klimsch, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1873 for more formal artistic training but died tragically young a year later.
This scene depicting the Emperor Napoleon on horseback at the Battle of Waterloo was completed by Klimsch at just sixteen years of age. The chaos and mayhem of battle is atmospherically captured as Napoleon rides through, followed by his entourage. Klimsch has managed to combine key elements of the battle which were to prove Napoleon’s downfall – the bad weather, the ineffectual artillery and the French cavalry’s inability to crush the British infantry squares. As such Napoleon is seen riding across a rain sodden, muddy field, passing the broken remnants of cannon, casting his eyes down to the dead body of a cavalry soldier whilst in the background British infantry loom forward threateningly.
The engagement in June 1815 was the last great battle of the Napoleonic Wars and marked the end of France’s attempt to dominate Europe. After his defeat Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena in the South Atlantic where he died in May 1821.