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Lady Butler's depiction of Corporal Schiess
Steven Sass


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 18
Location: Milwaukee, WI USA
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Hello all,

Please forgive me if this question has been presented before. If I am not mistaken the general consensus is that there is no surviving picture of Corporal Scheiss. In Lady Butler's 1880 painting "The Defence of Rorke's Drift, as commissioned by Queen Victoria, I am assuming the fellow in irregular dress, who is at the mealie bag wall and is turned, cupping his hand in an attempt to yell something possibly to Chard or Bromhead is Corporal Scheiss.

I remember reading an article (but I am unable to cite it at the moment) suggesting whilst Alphonse De Neuville was in the process of painting his version of the "Defense of Rorke's Drift," he may have used some of the actual defenders as models. Whether or not the De Neuville story is true the point is he had some source from which to base his depiction of the participants on. Would it be possible that Lady Butler may have had a picture of Corporal Schiess, (or at least a detailed description, possibly given and evaluated by someone who was there) and therefore his representation in her painting is a close delineation of his actual appearance?

Thanks to all and best wishes,

Steven
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 879
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Steven,

It is my understanding that Schiess is depicted as the figure to the right of Bromhead, on the mealie sacks rifle raised in the act of bayoneting downwards towards an unseen foe.

As the figure is seen from behind, his face not shown, so I imagine Lady Elizabeth, like us had no idea as to what Schiess looked like.

The figure with the cupped hand, I have seen described either as Daniells the ferryman, or Dalton, personally I'd opt for the latter, the face appears to have been copied from the image of Dalton which appeared in the ILN. Personally, I disagree with one author who concluded that Dalton was figure semi-prone, propped up against the mealie sacks, who appears to wearing a R.A. uniform.

John Y.
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Martin Everett


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 764
Location: Brecon
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Steven,

You have really started another thread - which could be a very long one!
I am not in a position to research it for you at the moment - but it could be an excellent subject for someone wishing to do a dissertation.

There is a Fine Arts Society brochure produced for the first showing of the de Neuville painting.

There is also Lady Butler's own diary account of how she produced her depiction of RD.

There is a more general assessment of AZW images in Peter Harrington's book 'British Artists and War: The Face of Battle in Paintings 1700-1914'. Somehow de Neuville becomes British.


Last edited by Martin Everett on Fri May 04, 2007 2:21 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Martin Everett
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peterw


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 773
Location: UK
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I have a copy of the book "Lady Butler, Battle Artist" by Paul Usherwood and Jenny Spencer-Smith, published for the exhibition at the National Army Museum 14 May - 26 September 1987.

The book states: "She related that she managed to include portraits of all the Victoria Cross winners...Corporal Schiess VC, Natal Native Contingent, lying on the ground centre left..."

I take this to be the bearded figure propped up against the mealie bags.

Peter
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Cpl Schiess
Sapper Mason


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 333
Location: ANGLESEY
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Very Happy ,
Forum , unless i am very mistaken is there not a likenesss ( ? ) of Cpl Schiess VC in the excellent " Monuments to Courage " by David Harvey who spent 40 years putting this excellent publication together . I as i expect others have located the SCHIESS family whilst doing research but getting even a slow response from Switzerland is something else when asking questions about this man . To die before aged 30 aboard a ship of malnutrition is something i find incredible to accept but it happened .
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 879
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Graham,

Yes you are mistaken, there is no likeness of Schiess in the late David Harvey's book. David admitted to me he had been misled by the findings of Canon Lummis, and had produced an image based on a photograph of a group that was meant to include Schiess. That photograph was refuted as long ago as 1980's. Ron Shelley has the original photograph which actually depicts the Northamptonshire Regiment at Fort Northampton circa 1882/3.

Having said that there is a V.C. in the group Lt. Hill of the old 58th from Laing's Nek.

David was going put out an errata message, after I had shown him the evidence, but sadly he didn't live long enough.

John Y.
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 879
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Peter,

I'm now at home and able to check the text that you referred to.

The authors have been misled by an article that appeared in Tradition Magazine that was penned by Christopher Wilkinson-Latham, which they acknowledge in the note on page 80. Look carefully at Christopher's quoted text, it is not without error, in one short paragraph I count no less than five errors. If he is at fault over acknowledged and recognised facts, I personally place little store in his description of the painting either.

The figure that is stated to be Dalton, is in fact Louis Byrne. As we know from recorded interviews, Louis Byrne was shot dead, with a bullet to the head whilst giving water to the wounded Corporal Carl Scammell of the N.N.C. Lady Butler depicts Surgeon Reynolds attending to Scammell, whilst Scammell raises a cup or a mug to his lips with his left hand, still held in the left hand of the mortally wounded Byrne.

Scammell is depicted in the same uniform as the man who I identified to Steven as Schiess, obviously a fellow member of the N.N.C., who when examined under a magnifying glass his hat pushed (or could that be blown) backwards. Wasn't Schiess' hat hit by a Zulu rifleman, causing Schiess to take some positive action to deal with the rifleman, and two of his companions?

John Y.
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a.j


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 80
Location: Thornaby-On-Tees, Great Britain
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When Lady Butler was commisioned by Queen Victoria for the painting, it was her intention to show all 11 Victoria Cross winners and it is true that some of the men were asked to re-enact their parts during the action while wearing the uniform they wore on the day.

In James Bancroft's book Rorke's Drift he says that the figure lying on the ground (in a black uniform, next to Bromhead) is Corporal Schiess.
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photo
clive dickens


Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 162
Location: REDDITCH WORCESTERSHIRE
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I have written to this forum before about this there is a photograph in the late David Harvey's " Monuments to Courage " which was supposed to be of Cpl Schiess but this was at the time disputed by John Young but since then this same photograph has been shown by Brian Best in the Victoria Cross society's journal so quite honestly I do not know what to believe.
Clive
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 879
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Clive,

I've got David's correspondence in the garage, which agrees with my findings.

If Brian has used the image what is his source?

A.J.,

Don't you think that Jim could have been misled by the authors of Lady Butler work? As he lists all the same errors!

JY
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 879
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Clive,

I have checked my source documents on this now, this all stems from Canon Lummis' Padre Smith... in which on pages 50-51 he produces an image and states that it was taken before the action at Rorke's Drift.

Because of Lummis' work, This England cropped the image of the supposed Schiess and reproduced it in their Register of the Victoria Cross. David Harvey had a sketch worked-up from that image depicting a man in a foreign-service helmet, and again identified the image as Schiess.

Rather than the grainy image in the Lummis book, Ron Sheeley has an original photograph taken from a slightly different angle but of the same group, it is dated 1884 and the location given as Rorke's Drift Zululand June/84 to Nov./84 the image has a key to it. That key reveals the identity of of the man in the foreign-service helmet to be VCHill A.R..

Given the time-frame of the photograph, wasn't Schiess ill and destitute in King William's Town at the time? Would he not die in the month following the last date given?

I'll let you be the judge of who you believe? But all I can offer are the facts, not hearsay or supposition.

I have just spoken to Ron who is in the U.K., and he is happy for me to reproduce the photograph to prove the matter conclusively.

I can also reproduce an image of A.R. Hill from my own collection circa 1881, should that also allay your disbelief?

John Y.



Alan Richard Hill V.C., identified in Ron's group.



An image of A.R. Hill from my own collection.
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a.j


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 80
Location: Thornaby-On-Tees, Great Britain
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John,

All I'm saying is what James Bancroft says, and I muist admit there are a few mistakes in his book, which I believed up until now.
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haven't a clue
clive dickens


Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 162
Location: REDDITCH WORCESTERSHIRE
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John
I am afraid that I have no idea at all where Brian Best got his information I am only going on what I saw in the VC society journal I have taken your information to be correct it seem's to fall in with the general information on him He is certainly causing an argument over what he looked like all these years after his death.
Clive
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 879
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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A.J. & Clive,

All I'm trying to put across is that authors of either books or society journals owe it to their readership to make sure they have facts correct.

If they keep quoting the wrong thing, then the wrong thing becomes established as fact. Suchas the oft-quoted the number of the European survivors from Isandlwana as fifty-five. A fact that I hope most of membership of this forum know is inaccurate, yet it is still the figure trotted out by the press! The same goes for the Lady Butler painting, one writes it, another copies it and before we know where we are it is accepted as fact by an author publishing a work on the subject!

John Y.
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SCHIESS
Sapper Mason


Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 333
Location: ANGLESEY
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Very Happy ,
FORUM , as i said earlier i ( and i expect others ) have located the family of Schiess in Switzerland during the course of research , i am sure in the dim mists of past times it was reported / rumoured there was indeed a picture of Schiess on a glass plate ( ? ) , again i am treading on thin - ice on this one .I have tried to contact Switzerland but got nowhere , even if there were a likeness of another family member about a comparable could be made . Are there any descendants of Swiss origin i wonder who could throw some light on this ? , " Sapper " Wink
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Lady Butler's depiction of Corporal Schiess
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