Kotzebue Alexander von,
Oil on canvas
225 x 481
State Russian Museum
Lesnaya is a village in Belarus, and a battle took place nearby on 28 September 1708, during the Northern War, in which the 12,000-strong force of Peter the Great defeated the 16,000-strong Swedish corps of General Adam Lewenhaupt. The Russians also captured a very large supply train, with food for three months, artillery and munitions. Peter the Great saw the Battle of Lesnaya as the “mother of the Battle of Poltava” – the Russian army’s main and concluding victory in the Northern War (27 June 1709) – since the army of Charles XII was greatly weakened after the loss of its supply train. Alexander von Kotzebue painted battle pieces showing victories by Russian arms to commissions from the Imperial Court. The artist’s painting devoted to the Battle of Lesnaya is remarkable both for the masterly way that he constructs dynamic scenes involving figures and also for his expressive treatment of the landscape which, with its sense of anxiety, increases the power of the emotional effect on the viewer.
Kotzebue, Alexander von
1815, Königsberg – 1889, Munich
Painter, battle painter. Son of German playwright August von Kotzebue, brother of famous explorer Otto von Kotzebue (1788–1846), and eminent military leader and statesman Paul von Kotzebue (1801–1884). Studied at the Second Petersburg Cadet Corps, served as an officer in the Life Guards Lithuanian Regiment. Audited Alexander Sauerweid’s battle class at the Imperial Academy of Arts (1837–1844). By imperial decree, was sent abroad on an assignment trip (1847) to study the theatre of military operations of the Seven Year’s War and produce the commissioned paintings. Awarded the title of academician without creating a painting specifically for this honour (1850). Went to Italy (1852) to depict commissioned scenes from Alexander Suvorov’s Swiss and Italian expeditions. In 1858, exhibited three paintings related to this subject at the Imperial Academy of Art: Russians Crossing Over the Devil’s Bridgein Switzerland in 1799, Battle of Novi in 1799 and Battle in the Mutten Valley in 1799. Professor of battle painting, member of the Munich Academy of Arts (1858). Commissioned by the Emperor to execute six paintings related to the conquest of the Baltics by Peter the Great. Worked on paintings on the subject of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878.