Painted in 1836 by Albrecht Adam, this scene of Napoleon observing the burning city of Smolensk is estimated at €100,000-130,000 on May 18.

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Painted in 1836 by Albrecht Adam (1786-1862), it is estimated at €100,000-130,000.

The artist did not base his painting on hearsay or written accounts: he had accompanied the imperial army in 1812 and witnessed the aftermath of the fighting in Smolensk.

In his autobiography Adam wrote: “On the evening of the battle we saw a frightful but beautiful spectacle from our campsite: the town [Smolensk] was ablaze and the searing evening sun mixed its rays with the fire’s glow … Never again in my entire life did I witness such enchanting light effects.”

The artist may have been impressed in August 1812, as was the emperor, most certainly. Only a few months later, however, his campaign was to meet a disastrous end at the gates of Moscow.