I’ve loved this picture ever since I saw it on the cover of an LP by a 1960s psychedelic pop band called Nirvana – whose deceptively simple melodies and lush string arrangements smelled nothing like teen spirit.
For a long time the photographic realness of the black and white LP cover was thought to be a still from a film by Leni Riefenstahl – a woman film director and Nazi propagandist.
She directed ‘Olympia’ the renowned film of the 1938 Berlin Olympics where the black athlete Jesse Owens knocked Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy into a cocked hat by winning 4 gold medals. Hitler refused to shake his hand.
Eventually the LP cover was identified as ‘Les Conquérants’ (The Conquerors) a painting by Pierre Fritel. The larger than life-size painting (almost 5 by 7 meters) shows famous military leaders from history riding through what looks like the valley of death.
It was the toast of the 1892 Paris Salon Exhibition and was exhibited in London the following year. After a short tour of prominent cities, it passed into a private collection. Today, very little is known of its whereabouts.
There are only two photographs available on the internet. A vivid black and white line print (used for the LP cover).
And an early poor quality colour reproduction.
Because I love the painting so much, I thought it would be interesting to try and recreate a colour version that retains the haunting sinister quality of the black and white print. Merging both versions using Photoshop, and after hours of painstaking retouching, the finished version heads the post.
READ: Who are the Conquerors?