Meissonnier: Retreat From Russia

"Meissonnier's battle pieces -- his Retreat From Moscow, his Ney Defending the Rearguard -- are familiar from ten thousand reproductions. In his studio, a pupil is at work. preparing the stage for the day's work. He opens boxes and takes out toy guns and ammunition, weapons, trees, soldiers, houses, horses. He ranges them in battle array on a thick carpet of sparkling white powder that looks like boracic. Then he sprays the whole scene with gum arabic and dusts it over with more powder. The field is ready. Meissonnier comes in. 'What a fine winter landscape,' he observes.

"He explained his methods.

"When I painted my Retreat From Russia, instead of boracic acid I used castor sugar. What an effect of snow I obtained!

[Unfortunately] it attracted the bees from a neighbouring hive. So I replaced the sugar by flour. And then the mice came and ravaged my battlefield and I had to finish my picture from imagination."

["Returning from a three-week vacation, Vincent and Trish Caminiti of Bayport, New York, found a colony of 20,000 bees had set up house in the walls of their home. Beekeepers were called to evict the bees and they found about four pounds of honey and 10,000 baby bees in the walls. Neighbors told the Caminitis that the bees arrived in a thick black swarm that buzzed so loud that some thought it was an aircraft. The swarm entered the house one at a time through a tiny half-inch hole in one wall of the house."]

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