The Defense of Champigny

Édouard Detaille (French, Paris 1848–1912 Paris)
Oil on canvas
48 x 84 3/4 in. (121.9 x 215.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Henry Hilton, 1887
Accession Number:
Not on view
In this battle picture, shown in the Salon of 1879, Détaille depicts an incident that he had observed on December 2, 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War. General Faron's soldiers are shown fortifying their new position at the town of Champigny-sur-Marne, near Paris, and breaking openings in the wall for cannons. General Faron is at the left, talking to an old gardener. The artist painted a replica of the picture in 1879 (private collection) and returned to the subject for a huge panorama of the battle (now destroyed) that he executed with de Neuville in 1882.

Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): EDOUARD DETAILLE- / 1879.
[Goupil & Cie, Paris, 1879; stock no. 13371, purchased from the artist at the Salon on April 1 for Fr 25,000; sold in May for Fr 50,000 to Hilton]; Henry Hilton, New York (1879–87)
Paris. Salon. May 12–June 1879, no. 987 (as "Champigny; —décembre 1870").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition," December 12, 1974–February 10, 1975, not in catalogue.

Arthur Baignères. "Le Salon de 1879 (Premier article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 19 (June 1879), p. 566, ill. pp. 549, 567 (drawings after the painting), calls it one of the best pictures in the Salon.

Édouard Detaille. Letter to Henry Hilton. May 29, 1879 [published in "Catalogue of the Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," New York, 1899, pp. 175–76], states that he considers this painting to be his most important work and is pleased that it is now in Hilton's collection; describes its subject as the battle of December 2, 1870, when General Faron defended an estate in Champigny, near the Marne, against the German troops; notes that he was a soldier during the siege of Paris and a witness to this scene; requests permission to lend this picture to an exhibition in Germany [see Ref. Forbes and Kelly 1975].

Charles Clément. "Exposition de 1879." Journal des débats politiques et littéraires (June 8, 1879), p. 1, praises this picture.

[Louis de] Fourcaud. "Le Salon du 'Gaulois': Scènes militaires." Le Gaulois (June 20, 1879), p. 2, calls it "Défense de Champigny par la division Faron (décembre, 1870)"; praises its documentary-like precision and detail, in particular the individuality of the figures.

Georges Lafenestre. Le Livre d'or du Salon de peinture et de sculpture. Paris, 1879, p. 45, ill. opp. p. 45 (engraving by A. Greux).

Armand Silvestre. "Civils et militaires au Salon de 1879." La Vie moderne (June 19, 1879), pp. 166–67.

Frédéric Vors. "Edouard Jean-Baptiste Detaille." Art Amateur 1 (October 1879), p. 92, ill. pp. 94–95 (drawings).

J.-K. Huysmans. "Le Salon de 1879." Le Voltaire (June 10, 1879) [reprinted in Huysmans, "L'Art moderne," Paris, 1883, p. 64], calls it "Épisode de la Bataille de Champigny"; criticizes the artificial poses of the figures, arranged "pour l'édification des amateurs".

Edward Strahan [Earl Shinn], ed. The Art Treasures of America. Philadelphia, [1880], vol. 2, pp. 17–19, 28, ill. (engraving).

Cicerone. "Private Galleries: Collection of Ex-Judge Henry Hilton." Art Amateur 2 (January 1880), pp. 31–32, praises the depiction of the figures but criticizes the overall execution of the setting as "dull and leaden".

Jules Richard. En campagne. Vol. 2, Tableaux et dessins de Meissonier, E. Detaille, A. de Neuville.... Paris, [1886], pp. 42–44, ill. (engraving).

"The New Pictures at The Metropolitan Museum." Harper's Weekly (May 14, 1887), p. ?.

Mrs. Schuyler van Rensselaer. "The Metropolitan Museum. The Society of American Artists [part 1]." Independent 39 (May 12, 1887), p. 6.

"The Fine Arts: Further Gifts to the Metropolitan Museum." Critic (May 7, 1887), p. 232.

Montezuma [Montague Marks]. "My Note Book." Art Amateur 17 (June 1887), p. 3.

"The Metropolitan Museum of Art—The French Painters." New York Times (May 22, 1895), p. 4.

"Louvre of Nations." New York Times (September 17, 1898), p. RBA618.

Marius Vachon. Detaille. Paris, 1898, pp. 34–39, 167, ill., calls it "La division Faron à Champigny" and dates it 1878–79; notes that it is the most popular of Détaille's paintings on the defense of Paris; identifies Lieutenant-Colonel Pottier, Lieutenant Montès, and General Faron interviewing an old gardener in the three parts of this composition; reproduces four studies of soldiers.

William Sharp. "The Art Treasures of America (Concluded.)." Living Age, 7th ser., 1 (December 3, 1898), p. 606.

Arthur Hoeber. The Treasures of The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. New York, 1899, pp. 79–80, as "The Defence of Champigny"; calls it "a vivid statement of the facts".

Gustave Haller. Nos grands peintres: Catalogue de leurs œuvres et opinions de la presse. Paris, 1899, pp. 76, 130, 231–32, calls it "La division Faron à Champigny," "Champigny, décembre 1870," and "Défense de Champigny".

Henry Marcel. La Peinture française au XIXe siècle. Paris, 1905, p. 312.

J[ean]. Valmy-Baysse. Peintres d'aujourd'hui. Paris, [1910], unpaginated, ill., as "La Défense de Champigny, par la division Faron".

Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 213–14, ill., call it "The Defence of Champigny" and state that Champigny-sur-Marne is near Joinville.

Carl R. Baldwin. The Impressionist Epoch. Exh. brochure, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. [New York], 1974, p. 23.

Christopher Forbes and Margaret Kelly. War à la mode: Military Pictures by Meissonier, Detaille, de Neuville and Berne-Bellecour. Exh. cat., New York Cultural Center. [New York?], [1975], pp. 13–14, discuss it in relationship to the replica (formerly Forbes Magazine Collection) and suggest that the replica may have been executed for an exhibition in Germany [see Ref. Détaille 1879].

Jean Humbert. Édouard Detaille, l'héroïsme d'un siècle. Paris, 1979, colorpl. 11, as "La division Faron à Champigny".

François Robichon. La Peinture militaire française de 1871 à 1914. PhD diss., Université de Paris-Sorbonne. [Paris], 1998, p. 97, ill.

John Milner. Art, War and Revolution in France, 1870–1871: Myth, Reportage and Reality. New Haven, 2000, pp. 98–99, colorpl. 177, dates it about 1881.

François Robichon. Édouard Detaille: Un siècle de gloire militaire. Paris, 2007, pp. 26–27, 34–35, ill. (color), notes that Hilton purchased this picture at the Salon for Fr 50,000.

Richard Thomson. Art of the Actual: Naturalism and Style in Early Third Republic France, 1880–1900. New Haven, 2012, pp. 86–87, 315 n. 14, fig. 61 (color), as "La Division Faron à Champigny" (General Faron's Division at Champigny).

An engraving of this picture by A. Greux is reproduced in Lafenestre 1879.