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Broadsides against Boney: Mark Bryant admires a Russian artist whose lampoons of Napoleon inspired some notable British caricaturists.

Napoleon's invasion of Russia in June 1812 led not only to the formation of the Sixth Coalition against France (Britain, Portugal, Spain and Russia, joined later by Prussia, Austria and Sweden) but also to the ending of the tsar's 200-year-old ban on personal caricature. Between 1812 and 1814 more than 200 satirical prints targeting the French emperor and his circle appeared in Moscow and St Petersburg, some of which were reprinted in London and influenced the work of George Cruikshank, Thomas Rowlandson and others. This period also saw the emergence of the first professional caricaturists in Russia, notably the short-lived Ivan Terebenev (1780-1815), who died five months before the Napoleonic Wars ended, aged just 34.

Traditional cartoon images in Russia were in the form of the lubok, a brightly coloured woodcut broadside often featuring animals and mythological themes to comment on human nature. Strict censorship introduced in 1720 prevented the publication of any lubki that were deemed immoral or attacked the Orthodox church, the imperial government or the personal honour of any individual. However, with the beginning of the Patriotic War against France in 1812, all this changed and the lubok tradition-fused with western drawing techniques--was employed with great success to lampoon Russia's enemies and Napoleon in particular.


Ivan Ivanovich Terebenev was born in St Petersburg (then Russia's capital) on June 10th, 1780. After studying sculpture at the city's Imperial Academy of Fine Art under Andreyan Zakharov (1761-1811) and M.I. Kozlovsky (1753-1802), graduating in 1800 with gold and silver medals for his work, he taught at a school in Tver (between St Petersburg and Moscow), while also continuing to produce a number of public monuments, bas reliefs and statues.

When Napoleon's Grand Army invaded Russia in June 1812, Terebenev turned to caricature and drew 48 popular anti-French satirical prints over the following three years, published at first by Ivan Glazunov and distributed nationwide by itinerant printsellers. Some were also reproduced in journals (such as The Son of the Fatherland), on sets of fine china and in book form. Perhaps Terebenev's bestknown work is Azbuka 1812 goda (A Gift to Children Commemorating the Year 1812), otherwise known as Terebenev's ABCs (1814). This book is a personal anthology of his own anti-Napoleon cartoons, using rhyming couplets based on the pictures to teach children the Russian alphabet. It also includes some additional caricatures by two of his contemporaries, Ivan Ivanov (1779-1848) and Aleksei Venetsianov (1780-1847). The latter founded Russia's first cartoon magazine, Zhurnal Karikatur (Journal of Caricatures), in St Petersburg in 1808--long before Punch was launched in Britain in 1841.


Such was the influence of Terebenev's work that a number of his drawings were reprinted in London during the Napoleonic Wars. Some were even copied or redrawn for the British market by George Cruikshank (1792-1878), who produced nine cartoons after Russian originals (with both Russian and English texts) for Hannah Humphrey in 1813. Six of these have been definitely attributed to Terebenev, including 'Napoleon's Fame' (May 10th, 1813), 'Journey of the Exalted Traveller from Warsaw to Paris' (May 30th, 1813), 'A Russian Peasant Loading a Dung Cart' (March 1813) and 'Russians Teaching Boney to Dance' (May 18th, 1813). At least two of Cruikshank's versions of Terebenev's drawings--'Specimen of Russian Chopping Blocks' (January 8th, 1813) and 'A Russian Boor Returning from His Field Sports' (January 8th, 1813)--were also transfer-printed, in English and Russian, onto Staffordshire pottery jugs.


Thomas Rowlandson (c. 1756-1827) was also influenced by Terebenev. His 'Blucher the Brave Extracting the Groan of Abdication from the Corsican Bloodhound' (April 9th, 1814) was published a month after the Russian original but it has the Prussian General Blucher, instead of Tsar Alexander I, holding the dog Napoleon.

Though Terebenev died on January 16th, 1815, his legacy lived on. In 1855, during the Siege of Sebastopol in the Crimean War, when Russia was again being attacked by France (this time with British help), the imperial government reprinted all of his images to inspire Russian troops and the residents of the city. Later still, after the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany in 1941, a collection of anti-Napoleon drawings (including a dozen by Terebenev), together with modern cartoons against Hitler, was published. Entitled Russia: Britain's Ally, 1812-1942 (Harrap, 1942), it was edited by the art historian F.D. Klingender and had an introduction by Ivan Maisky, then Soviet Ambassador to the UK.

Terebenev's son Alexander (1815-59) became a celebrated sculptor, notably producing the ten Atlantes that hold up the portico of the New Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

Mark Bryant is the author of Napoleonic Wars in Cartoons (Grub Street, 2009). For further articles on this subject, visit
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Title Annotation:Drawing on History; Ivan Ivanovich Terebenev
Author:Bryant, Mark
Publication:History Today
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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