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Emil Johannes Hünten was born in Paris in 1827 as the son of a Composer. Art was his calling and at the age of 20 he moved to Antwerp where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he was surrounded by ancient Dutch history pieces. Subsequently Hünten moved to Dusseldorf where he explored his interest in military subjects, in particular the life of Frederick the Great.
The Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia greatly admired Hünten’s work and in 1864 he was invited to accompany the army in Schleswig-Holstein. Following from this commission, Hünten’s clientele grew significantly, including names such as Otto von Bismark. As a result of these important commissions, many of his works such as this were also reproduced as a lithograph.
This piece depicts the Battle of Mars-La-Tour, which took place on August 16, 1870. On this day two Prussian corps defeated the entire French army of the Rhine (under Bazaine) causing them to retreat into the fortress of the Metz. It was very much a German victory, and in the painting you see the desperate charges of the German cavalry, especially those of Von Bredow’s brigade, against the French infantry. This aggressive German movement provided cover for the tired German infantry to reform and is known as one of the last successful massed cavalry charges of Modern Warfare.
This battle is also referred to as ‘Von Bredow’s Death Ride’ as it resulted in large numbers of casualties for the Prussian forces, despite the defeat against the French, who originally outnumbered them four or five to one. The losses overall of the battle were equal with around 16,000 men killed and wounded on each side. A mere two days after this battle there came the Battle of Gravelotte, and then following form that the siege of Metz. It is clear to see that the German victory at Mars-La-Tour was crucial in the entire play of the Franco-Prussian War. Hünten’s image if full of energy and animation, with the vast size of the painting equating to the importance of the battle itself.
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About Emil Hunten
Private Collection, Europe
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