Arriver après la bataille

Emile_Jean_Horace_VernetI love mystery stories. One of the greatest writers of the genre is, of course Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes, claimed to have French antecedents. In the story “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter,” Holmes states, “My ancestors were country squires… my grandmother… was the sister of Vernet, the French artist.”

lois_philippeHolmes had to be referring to Émile Jean-Horace Vernet, born on June 30, 1789. Both his father and grandfather were respected artists. Vernet’s parents were actually living at the Louvre when he was born. Talk about a propitious beginning for a painter!

VernatIf Vernet studied the classics all around him at the Louvre, they mustn’t have impressed him that much. He drew his inspiration from what was going on in contemporary society. Vernet often painted soldiers in a more realistic manner than as superhuman gods. He found an important patron in the duc d’Orléans who commissioned a series of battle paintings. Vernet also became known for Orientalism after a voyage to Egypt, as seen in his self-portrait (top).

Horace_Vernet_The_lion_huntHis ability to please his patrons made his career an ongoing success as he racked up commissions for King Louis-Philippe and, after the fall of the monarchy, Napoléon III. Vernet didn’t paint in a theoretical way; he accompanied the army during the Crimean War. According to legend, Vernet was once asked to remove an odious general from one of his battle scenes. Notwithstanding his royal patron, he declined, saying, “I am a painter of history, sire, and I will not violate the truth.” Conan Doyle and Holmes would definitely approve. Vernet died on January 17, 1863.

horace-vernet-glaourToday’s expression, arriver après la bataille (are-ee-vay apreh lah bateye) literally means to arrive after the battle.  Figuratively, it means to miss the action. Someone who rode along with the army was unlikely to have missed anything, much like his talented fictional great-nephew.

51WfbL0gKQL__SL75_Amazing and Extraordinary Facts: Sherlock Holmes

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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4 Responses to Arriver après la bataille

  1. A bit of a stretch, but are you familiar with Arsene Lupin?

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