Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet, A French Soldier of the Ancien Régime, 1842, Watercolor, gouache, and ink on blue wove paper. Acquired by the Clark, 1987. The Clark Art Institute, 1987.97.
The trappings of fully-kitted-out soldiers—military uniforms, medals, armor, weapons, cavalry horses, and the like—offered visual fascination for many artists. As with armor, some uniforms were intended only for official reviews and parades, not for use in actual battle, where their brilliant colors and gleaming textures could be a liability. The camouflage patterns associated with military uniforms today did not come into wide use until the twentieth century, when aerial reconnaissance made military maneuvers more perilous. In all eras, however, a uniform’s ornateness and grandeur have been closely connected to the position of its wearer in a regimented military hierarchy.