Edgar Bundy was a Victorian illustrator of historical and
literary themes. Many of the historical subjects he chose for
illustration had a particular resonance in his own time, a fact
that, together with his great skill as an artist, accounts for the
extraordinary popularity of his work. For example, the making of
England into a world power in the 15th and 16th centuries (the
setting of this battle scene) was seen as the origin of the British
Empire, while the division between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads
in the English Civil War prefigured the Tory and Liberal rivalries
of the Disraeli and Gladstone years.
If this watercolour were not dated 1911, one might be led to see
it as a reflection of the dreadful carnage of the Great War (World
War I, which did not start until 1914). It even predates the Agadir
crisis of July 1911, in which Germany threatened French hegemony in
Morocco with a gunship, one of the events seen as an indication of
the open warfare to follow.
Painted in a time of peace, it is nevertheless a brilliantly
vivid allegory of the death and destruction that was about to be
staged by the British, French and German generals and politicians
in the mud of Flanders and Northern France three years later.
Although Germany and Great Britain were then enemies on the
battlefield, Bundy's portrayal of death disguised as a general
lurking behind the front line is indebted to a mainly German
tradition of the macabre, stretching from Albrecht Dürer and Hans
Burgkmair in the 16th century, to Alfred Rethel in the 19th.