9283 AN UNUSUAL VIEW OF THE PALACE OF VERSAILLES DURING THE OCCUPATION BY PRUSSIAN FORCES Signed Wilh Beck Berlin In Preussen. Ritter Strase 19. A. 1870. Measurements: Unframed: Width 59 3/4″(152cm) x 38 1/2 (98cm) Framed: Length: 62 1/4″ (158cm); Depth: 1 1/2″ (4cm); Height: 40 3/4″ (103.5cm)
Gouache on paper laid onto board.
This interesting painting forms part of a series by Prussian artist Wilhelm Beck illustrating the events of the Siege of Paris, which lasted from September 19, 1870 to January 28, 1871. The capture of the city by Prussian forces led to the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War and the foundation of the German Empire.
Following a victory in the battle of Sedan on September first, the Prussian Army, led by King William I himself, began moving in on Paris. On September 18th Versailles was taken and occupied as the Prussian Army’s headquarters, and eventually those of King William I. The present painting captures this moment of the occupation of Versailles. Rendered with unusual perspective, the scene is nevertheless historically accurate.
The Triumphal entry into Paris took place on March 1, 1871, and is depicted in another painting by Beck (figure 1). The march of some 30,000 men ran from the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde to the sound of military marching music. This work, too, is an accurate representation of events and key individuals can be identified including Commander of the 3rd German army, Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck, and various other commanders and princes.
Four further paintings by Beck from this period were formerly in the European art trade and depict street scenes; one battle scene was sold in Berlin in 2006 (figure 2), two depict Prussian-French battles, sold in Milan in 2003 and the last depicting a Street Battle, Possibly Lothringen, German-French sold in Lindau, Germany in 1991. Though biographical details on Beck are scarce, his signature indicates that he was living at Ritterstrasse 19a in Berlin.
Consequentially, nearly 50 years later on June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the palace at the conclusion of World War I, ending the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers.