Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798 (study)

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Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798
Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798 MET 150804.jpg
ArtistFrançois-André Vincent
Yearc. 1800
MediumInk and graphite on washed paper
Dimensions41.8 cm × 75.1 cm (16.5 in × 29.6 in)
LocationMetropolitan Museum of Art

Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798 is an early 19th century drawing by French painter François-André Vincent. Done in black ink and graphite on washed paper, the study depicts the Battle of the Pyramids. The work is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The painting depicts the pivotal Battle of the Pyramids, fought between the French Armée d'Orient under Napoleon Bonaparte and an army of Malmuk-controlled Egypt. The battle, fought on 21 July 1798, resulted in the near-destruction of the Mamluk army and the surrender of Cairo to the French. The victory caused elation in France, compounding the interest in Egypt (often referred to as first wave of "Egyptomania"[1]) that Napoleon's campaign in Egypt had already generated.[2][1] This interest was in turn reflected in the art of turn of the century France, producing a number of works of art centered around Napoleon's military triumphs. The outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars ensured that this focus continued, as Napoleon's continued military success into the early 19th century ensured that French artists maintained their interest in depicting French martial glory.[3][2]

The drawing was produced by François-André Vincent at the turn of the 18th century. The piece was a study, intended to allow for Vincent to form a general idea of an oil painting he planned to paint. At the time, Vincent was one of a group of artists commissioned by the French ministry of the interior to produce a series of six battlefield paintings. Vincent ultimately never produced a painting for the project.[2]


Battle of the Pyramids portrays the titular battle as a flowing, energetic affair, while also ensuring that a visual distinction exists between French and Malmuk soldiers; while the Malmuk army is seen to be disorganized and chaotic, the French army is shown to be disciplined and orderly. The details of the battle are a reflection of historical reality, as during the engagement the Malmuk infantry and cavalry were repeatably repulsed by French line infantry with heavy losses.[4] In addition, Vincent ensures that the exotic nature of the Malmuk horsemen, the banks of the Nile river, and the famous pyramids are all rendered in his work.[2]


  1. ^ a b Curl, James Stevens. Egyptomania: The Egyptian Revival, A Recurring Theme in the History of Taste. Manchester University Press, 1994. Manchester, UK; New York: Manchester University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-7190-4126-0
  2. ^ a b c d "Battle of the Pyramids, July 21, 1798". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  3. ^ James David Draper, Clare Le Corbeiller. The Arts Under Napoleon. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, cat. no. 15.
  4. ^ NAKOULA EL-TURK. Histoire de l'expédition des français en Égypte par Nakoula El-Turk. Publiée et traduite par M. Desgrandes Aîné.