“Draw, Orlovskii…!”

Model drawings for the Russian cavalry, 1808-1810.

Dragoon Regiments (1).

By Aleksandr Val'kovich.


(From Tseikhgauz No. 14, 2/2001.)


“Take your swift pencil and draw, Orlovskii, the night and the forest clearing!” –This line by Pushkin was directed at the famous artist of that time Aleksandr Orlovskii [Orlowski] (1777-1832), a splendid representative of romanticism in Russia. In 1802 he moved from Warsaw to St. Petersburg—young, talented, already achieving recognition. Graf Stanislaw Potocki introduced him to Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich and so the tsesarevich also became acquainted with the Polish artist’s work. His dynamic sketching and ability to capture a subject’s  characteristic lines pleased the tsar’s brother. Orlovskii was installed in the Marble Palace and designated one of the court artists with the enviable salary of six thousand roubles a year, almost two and a half times more than the state allowance for a general of the guards.


       The artist’s duty, according to a contemporary, lay “in executing the demands of the grand duke, who ordered various drawings from him on subjects related to the organization and reorganization of the Russian army….” In 1809 Orlovskii achieved the title of academician of battle paintings for his picture “Cossack Bivouac.” Ten years later he was assigned to the Military Topographical Depot of His Imperial Majesty’s Main Staff to create drawings of Russian army uniforms. But the artist is best known for his lithographic sheets depicting cavalrymen, battle scenes, Russian troikas, and scenes from civilian life.[1]

       Of his work executed at the orders of the grand duke we can identify a series of 16 engravings from 1803-04 depicting officers and lower ranks of Guards infantry and artillery in newly introduced uniforms.[2] In 1807 Orlovskii presented a new piece of work to the tsesarevich—13 watercolors depicting the uniform, equipment, and weapons of the Imperial militia battalion that was being formed.[3] Finally, in 1808-10 the artist executed 57 model drawings for cavalry regiments, done on large sheets. Of these he himself made engravings of two to serve as examples, in outline only, without shading. The rest were all engraved by Academy artists. In the fall of 1810 the work on this series was completed. On 1 October there was written in the journal of the Academy council:

The sum of 2369 roubles 9 kopecks in three receipts, presented by the honorable vice-president after being received by him with a letter from His Highness’s adjutant Colonel Ivan Grigor’evich Lagoda, for drawings done by academician Orlovskii, engraved and printed at the Academy for cavalry regiments. This money is to be entered as income and disbursed for payments by the appropriate persons.[4]

       The first 22 lithographed sheets were numbered and show dragoon regiments. There were no other numerations. Twenty sheets are devoted to cuirassiers and 15 to hussars.[5] It would be difficult to overvalue the significance this unique source material. It is only to be regretted that sheets with lancers are absent. The model drawings were widely used by artists under Nicolas I and were incorporated into the illustrative work of Istoricheskoe opisanie odezhdy i vooruzheniya rossiiskikh voisk.[6] A few of them were used in regimental jubilee histories.[7] However, they have never been reproduced in their entirety.

       The drawings for dragoon regiments do not have the date of their creation. Also not dated is their description, which managed to be found in one of the tsesarevich’s chancellery files—that of 30 August 1807 for his position as inspector-general of all cavalry.[8] Nevertheless, it is possible to answer the question of what time they belong to by looking at the illustrations themselves. The dragoons are shown in coats with shoulder straps only on the left shoulder and in the new-model helmets that were approved on 26 November 1808. Thus the drawings could not have been made before that date. At the same time, non-commissioned officers’ galloon lace is sewn along the bottom and front edges of the collar, and we know that on 4 April 1809 these ranks were ordered to henceforth have galloon along the top and front edges. It follows that these model drawings must date from November 1808—March 1809.

       The dragoons are armed with the 1806 pattern palash broadsword and firearms that at the time were still called muskets [mushkety]. It should also be noted that regardless of the compiler of Istoricheskoe opisanie… referring to dragoon regiments (except those located in the Caucasus Inspectorate) receiving new broadswords with steel scabbards,[9] his artists preferred to depict them in leather scabbards with metal fittings. Both were in use during this time. It remains to be added that according to documents of the Artillery Department, during the first half of 1811 dragoon regiments were supplied with new broadswords—a fact that up to now has been overlooked by researchers.[10] Broadswords of the 1809 pattern[11] with blades ordered from Solingen and—in distinction from cuirassiers—with leather scabbards were sent to regiments of the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Divisions and the separate brigade in Finland. Regiments of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Cavalry Divisions were sent over seven thousand broadswords from the Kiev and Moscow arsenals. These were “tsesarskii,” which is to say—Austrian, and must have been captured by our forces in the Galicia campaign of 1809. In the Courland Regiment such broadswords came from Her Majesty’s Leib-Cuirassier Regiment (probably after the cuirassiers had received new ones). In the mentioned divisions only the Chernigov and Tver dragoons, who already had Austrian swords, did not get new weapons.[12] Thus it was that during the Patriotic War of 1812 the blades of Russian dragoons were not inferior to the enemy’s, in spite of statements to the contrary.

       Being the first to publish and describe Orlovskii’s lithographed drawings, we do not consider it superfluous to also make known two other rare documents. They are part of a register of model items apparently sent out in the first half of 1808: “Uniform for privates of dragoon regiments” and “List of army cavalry regiments, with regimental colors for the cloth of piping and trim as confirmed by Highest Authority.”[13] In the first document an attentive reader familiar with the subject discovers a number of interesting details in regard to 1803 pattern helmet (its prototype was the Austrian cavalry helmet) and other parts of the dragoon uniform of that time. This information has not been taken into account by any of the specialized published works, including the basic standard Istoricheskoe opisanie…. Also, it must be recognized that the information contained in the second document regarding regimental facing colors for the Livonia (Lifland), Zhitomir, Finland, and Mitau dragoon regiments differs markedly from that presented by Viskovatov and in this instance raises doubts as to the reliability of his material.[14]

       The author considers it his pleasant duty to acknowledge his profound gratitude to his colleague Nina Mikhailovna Pyrova of the State Historical Museum (GIM) for kindly providing the opportunity to become familiar with the collection of Orlovskii’s model drawings, to his longtime friend Yurii Pavlovich Bab’yak for his help in preparing this publication, and also to Aleksandr Vladimirovich Kibovskii for finding the portraits of dragoon officers. 

(To be continued.)






On the cover: Equestrian portrait of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich. Painting by Baron D. Korf, 1877, from a watercolor by A. Orlovskii, 1805. (State Memorial Museum of A.V. Suvorov, St. Petersburg).


Page 11. Portrait of A.O. Orlovskii. Artist K. L. Rikhel’, 1815. (GRM)


Page 12. No. 1. Depiction of a mounted officer seen from the left side in full campaign equipment with valise, and a greatcoat in front under the shabraque.

No. 2. Depiction of a mounted officer seen from the right side in full dress with the valise as ordered to be when on parade during all reviews, containing a valise [chemodan] in the pack load [v’yuk] while the greatcoat is in front under the shabraque.


Page 13. No. 3. Presentation of a mounted non-commissioned officer as seen from the right side in full campaign equipment with valise. He is depicted holding a cane in his right hand, such as he would appear when serving as an orderly or leading a detachment and he himself is in charge while the detachment has swords in scabbards.

No. 4. Presentation of a mounted non-commissioned officer as seen from the right side in full parade equipment with sword drawn and the pack load as ordered to be during all reviews.


Page 14. No. 15. Depiction of a dismounted officer and non-commissioned officer in parade order, in which the non-commissioned officer holds his drawn sword as for when on foot in formation.

Top: Captain I.O. Bartenev of the Irkutsk Dragoon Regiment. Portrait by an unknown artist, circa 1806 (Museum of the Borodino Panorama). In 1807 Ivan Osipovich Bartenev (1770-1834) was promoted to major and remained in that rank for eleven years. At the time of his retirement he was ranked as the most senior major of light cavalry. I.O. Bartenev was the father of the publisher of the journal Russkii Arkhiv Petr Ivanovich Bartenev. This well-known historian was convinced that his father took part in the Battle of Borodino. All his later biographies freely repeated this story, but documents show that in 1812 I.O. Bartenev, commanding the Arzamas Dragoon Regiment, was with the 3rd Western Army. This does not at all lessen the military services of the brave major. For capturing a flag at the storming of Borisov on 9 November 1812 he was awarded the order of St. Vladimir 4th class with ribbon.


Page 15. No. 16. Depiction of two dragoons on foot in parade order, positioned as they would be in dismounted formation. One holds his musket at his shoulder and the other presents arms [sdelaet karaul]; the first view is from the front and the other is from the left side. From the latter the bayonet scabbard can be seen clearly, as well as how the sword is fastened to a hook.

Top: Company-grade officer of the Courland Dragoon Regiment. Miniature painting by an unknown artist, circa 1810 (All-Russia Museum of A.S. Pushkin). For a long time this portrait was considered a likeness of the cavalry maiden Nadezhda Durova. However, she served in the light cavalry and had no connection to the dragoons, so the name of this officer remains unknown for now. This miniature shows the appearance of dragoon officers after the reforms of 1807-1808.


Page 16. No. 5. Depiction of a mounted trumpeter in full campaign order including pack load, viewed from the left side, with the trumpet worn over the shoulder on the back and clearly showing the arrangement of lace on the coat.

No. 6. Depiction of a dragoon in full campaign order standing on the left side of his horse, holding him with his right hand at the nosepiece of the bridle until such time as he would mount. This also shows the entire campaign pack load.


Page 17. No. 7. Depiction of a mounted dragoon seen from the left side in full parade order with the pack load as prescribed for all reviews.

No. 8. Depiction of a mounted dragoon seen from the left side in full campaign order and with complete pack load.


Page 18. Non-commissioned officer of the Vladimir Dragoon Regiment, 1811. Watercolor by an unknown artist of the 1840’s. (Istoricheskoe opisanie… Vol. XI, No. 1449.) A clear example of artists utilizing A.O. Orlovskii’s model drawings.

[1] Karsavin, L. “Orlovskii, Aleksandr Osipovich,” Russkii biograficheskii slovar’. Vol. Obez’yaninov—Ochkin. St. Petersburg, 1902. Pages 313-315. Rovinskii, D.A. Podrobnyi slovar’ russkikh graverov. St. Petersburg, 1895. Columns 483-484.

[2] Rovinskii erroneously calls some of these sheets depictions of “soldiers and officers of the Pavlovsk Regiment” (op. cit., column 485). The only watercolors are now preserved in the State Hermitage while the State Historical Museum (GIM) possesses a complete set of engravings.

[3] Located in the Hermitage. The GIM collections have three copies of these watercolors given to the Finland Regiment by Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich in 1835. See Marin, A.N., Kratkii ocherk istorii Leib-Gvardii Finlyandskogo polka. St. Petersburg, 1846. Page 11.

[4] Rovinskii, D.A., op. cit. Column 499.

[5] We know of full sets of these lithographed drawings in the State Historical Museum (GIM) and the Russian Museum. The Military Academic Archive and the Russian State Military Historical Archive (RGVIA) hold 19 of the numbered sheets.

[6] See Viskovatov, A.V. Istoricheskoe opisanie odezhdy i vooruzheniya rossiiskikh voisk. Vol. XI. St. Petersburg, 1900.

[7] In particular, some of the sheets for dragoons were included in General N.V. Dubasov’s Istoriya Leib-Gvardii Konnogrenaderskogo polka (Vol. II, St. Petersburg, 1903). Two sheets from the “hussar suite” are in Captain P.P. Golodolinskii’s Istoriya 3-go dragunskogo Sumskogo polka (Part 2, Moscow, 1902).

[8] RGVIA, F. 25, Op. 1/160, D. 1897, L. 7-906.

[9] A.V. Viskovatov, op. cit., Vol. XI. Page 32.

[10] See the file “Po vysochaishemu ukazu ob otpuske v kirasirskie i dragunskie polki iz sostyashchikh v Sanktpeterburgskom arsenale i prochikh mestakh novogo kalibra palashei.” March-June 1811. RGVIA, F. 5, Op. 4, D. 1239.

[11] The opinion held up to this time regarding the 1810 introduction of a new-model cuirassier broadsword is thus to be recognized as erroneous (c.f. A.V. Viskovatov, op. cit., Vol. XI, Page 18; A.N. Kulinskii, Russkoe kholodnoe oruzhie voennykh, morskikh i grazhdanskikh chinov 1800-1917 godov. Opredelitel’. St. Petersburg, 1994. Pages 28-29.). In actuality, according to documents of the War Ministry and the tsesarevich’s chancellery, such swords, similar to the French 1805 pattern, were received by the Guards cuirassiers in the spring of 1809 and by army regiments in 1811 (RGVIA, F. 1, Op. 1, D. 1785, L. 10-11, 25, 30-32; F. 25, Op. 1, D. 1535, L. 1-2ob, 5-7ob; F. 3545, Op. 1, D. 520, L. 39, 81).

[12] RGVIA F. 5, Op. 4, D. 1239, L. 1-1ob, 5-8, 17-18; F. 25, Op. 1, D. 1535, L. 2ob.

[13] RGVIA, F. 25, Op. 1/160, D. 1897, L. 2-4ob, 5ob-6.

[14] C.f. A.V. Viskovatov, op. cit., Vol. XI, page 31.


Translated by Mark Conrad, 2002.