Completed in 1848, the painting depicts Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich Life-Guard Lancer Regiment in Poland during the campaign of 1831.
Tsar Nicholas I was a great collector of military paintings, and Carl Friedrich Schulz was among his favourite artists in the genre. Life-Guard Lancer Regiment on Manoeuvre is one of a group of paintings portraying the Russian army commissioned by Nicholas I and is believed to have come down to us from the Tsar’s private collection. Considering himself a connoisseur, the Tsar took a close interest in the works of art that he commissioned, choosing the artists himself and tasking them with a specific subject. He was particularly meticulous over the painter’s attention to details of uniform, equipment and insignia. As a consequence of his enthusiasm, he soon accumulated an exceptional collection of military paintings.
The German painter Carl Friedrich Schulz was educated at the academies of Dusseldorf and Berlin but took much of the inspiration for his later work from his time as a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars, in which he volunteered to serve in 1815. Having travelled extensively around Europe, Schulz settled in Berlin in 1830, where he was appointed professor of the Academy of Arts in 1841 before moving to Russia in 1847.
Schulz’s style derived from the Flemish Academic tradition. His exquisite grasp of anatomy and form, as well as his own experiences in the army, were easily transferred to the military scenes that preoccupied his later years, and of which this is a prime example. He was commissioned to paint these by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III as well as Tsar Nicholas I.