Bogdan Pavlovich Villevalde, 1818-1903
- Bogdan Pavlovich Villevalde
Lifeguards on Constable Square, Gatchina
- signed in Latin m.c.
- oil on canvas
- 67 by 96cm., 26½ by 37¾in.
Imperial Palaces in the vicinity of St Petersburg, vol. Tsarskoe Selo, ed. Alain de Gourcuff, 1992
Villevalde was regularly commissioned by the Imperial family to paint military subjects and battle scenes, and this is one of 34 regimental paintings by the artist that hung in the Green Study of Nicholas I in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo. While the scene is relatively mundane, it records the Lifeguards' uniforms just before more ornate lacquered leather helmets replaced their shakos in the reform of 9 May 1844.
Lifeguards on Constable Square, Gatchina shows a number of soldiers from the Lifeguards Izmailovsky Regiment waiting at their ease on Constable Square by the obelisk that is now symbolic of the palace and the town. The square mirrors that at the Montmorency family chateau in Chantilly, home to the Constables of France, hence its name. In front of the main group of experienced troops are four officers, the most senior of whom has just arrived on horseback, and a drummer and trumpeter are distinctive in their ornate tunics. The informality of the soldiers, some of whom are lounging behind the obelisk, contrasts with Tsar's approach over the bridge to the right. Whether this is artistic licence, or they are to accompany His Imperial Majesty on his ride, is left to the viewer.
As Villevalde's works were destined for Imperial ownership, they were rarely exhibited to the general public and almost never entered private hands. This painting therefore represents an item of unique Imperial and military interest.