pierre fritel

Pierre Fritel (1853-1942), ‘Les Conquérants’ (The Conquerors), 1892

This is how some see the march of history, “great men” plowing through the dead to bring the world “progress”, changing destinies through the sheer force of their “will.” I say that’s a bunch of noise but I have anarchist leanings so my worldview might be a bit biased when it comes to celebrations of power and of those who claim to hold it.

“In the centre of the van rides Julius Caesar, whom Shakespeare has pronounced “the foremost man of all this world.” On his right are the Egyptian called by the Greeks Sesostris, now known to be Rameses II, Attila, “the Scourge of God,” Hannibal the Carthaginian, and Tamerlane the Tartar. On his left march Napoleon, the last world-conqueror, Alexander of Macedon, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, that “head of gold” in the great image seen in his vision as interpreted by the prophet Daniel, and Charlemagne, who restored the fallen Roman Empire. Straight onward, mounted on horseback or riding in chariots, march these mighty men of the past at the head of armies whose lines of spears stretch back into the dim distance. On either side lie prostrate the naked bodies of those who have yielded their lives that these men might exercise power. The Conquerors, their hosts and their victims all belong to the world of the dead. Yet their power and glory are made fearful realities. Their influence and work are felt to pervade the world, to reach even to us, the living spectators. They are presented as dead, yet living and sending forth a mighty effect upon ages yet to come. The mighty sacrifices by which the glory of the world is achieved are here realized as never before.”

“The Library of Historic Characters and Famous Events of All Nations and All Ages”, Volume 3, ed. by A.R. Spofford, Frank Weitenkampf, and J.P. Lamberton, Philadelphia: William Finley & Co., 1894.

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Print based on Les Conquerants (The Conquerors, 1892), by Pierre Fritel. Julius Caesar is riding in the center, followed by “Sesostris”/Ramesses II, Attila, Hannibal, Tamerlane, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Nebuchadnezzar and Charlemagne. All of them are riding between a double row of stripped, rigid corpses. The painting was presented in the Salon of 1892. Also was used on the cover of an album by the band Nirvana; no, not the 90’s Nirvana of Kurt Cobain, but the 60’s British band.