The Battle of the Hydaspes, one of Alexander’s greatest victories, occurred in what is now the Punjab province of Pakistan. His army crossed the river Jhelum (known to the Greeks as the Hydaspes) to meet Porus’ forces, which outnumbered Alexander's and included a cavalry of fearless war elephants. Despite these seeming advantages, Porus was defeated and captured. Alexander, having been impressed by his bravery in battle, allowed Porus to continue governing his territory. One particularly tragic aftermath of the battle was the death of Alexander’s beloved horse Bucephalus, who had carried him into every one of his battles in Greece and Asia. Alexander was so grief stricken that he named a city in India, Bucephalia, in his honor. In Berchem’s depiction of this historic event, he brilliantly depicts the frenzied action at the peak of battle, demonstrating his skill at portraying a highly complex composition with dynamic equestrian groupings. Berchem must have been pleased with his work given the detailed and large-scale signature at the lower right of the canvas.
Another important historic battle painting depicting The Israelites Capture of Judea, also datable to later in Berchem’s career, is in the Dunkirk Museum.
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