Dirk Langendijk was born in Rotterdam in 1748. He was taught by Dirck Anthonie Bisschop, who mostly painted interiors, coats of arms and coaches. Langendijk soon far surpassed his master and specialized early on in depictions of land and sea battles and other military scenes from the Dutch Patriot Period (1780 – 87) and the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars (from 1792). He almost never painted individual portraits, almost exclusively depicting groups, especially soldiers, officers, and horses. He was much admired in his day for his depictions of horses in battle – as is most understandable, when one looks at the present work!
Although Langendijk also painted, he is nowadays much more admired for his qualities as a draughtsman and etcher. (His dated paintings only date from the period 1771 – 80.) It is probable that the artist witnessed some of the scenes he depicted first-hand, as the watercolour he made of the landing at Callantsoog in 1799 (now in the National Maritime Museum, London) is inscribed ‘ad vivum 1799’ (‘from life 1799’). Dirk Langendijk was married, but unhappily so, seeking solace in alcohol and drugs. He died at a relatively early age in 1805.
The present work, dynamic and full of life with its many intricate details, is a testament to the excellent draughtsmanship of the artist. Although small in scale, it evokes the dust, the smoke and the chaos of the cavalry charge very convincingly. Interestingly, the artist has inscribed the work with a dedication to a friend, the medical student Cornelis Dalen (Rotterdam 1766 – 1852), who went on become a well-respected doctor who remained active until the last of his days. It cannot be a coincidence that the date inscribed on the drawing (New Year’s eve) coincides with Dalen’s birthday (December 31st); the work must have therefore been intended as a birthday gift, which Dalen, who later on became vice-president of the local Rotterdam Society for the Promotion of the Visual Arts, must undoubtedly have greatly appreciated.