La défaite de Porus, engraved by Picart


Engraved by Bernard Picart (1673-1733) after a design by Pierre Gaubert (1659-1741), La défaite de Porus [Defeat of Porus by Alexander the Great at the Battle of the Hydaspes], ca. 1730. Engraving. Graphic Arts French prints


In 326 B.C.E., along the banks of the Hydaspes River, in what is present day Pakistan, there was a battle between King Porus of Paurava (4th century B.C.E.) and Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.E.). Alexander’s men faced an army that included 200 war elephants, which led the first charge. After a long and bloody battle, 3,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry were killed, leaving Alexander and his men the victors. Impressed by the dignity of King Porus, Alexander is said to have made peace with him and given him the kingship of neighboring territory.


Picart created this scene at the same time that he was completing thousands of prints for the massive study Religious Ceremonies of the World (Ex Oversize 5017.247.11f). Professor Anthony Grafton wrote, “In 1723, the engraver Bernard Picart and the printer Jean Frederic Bernard revealed the varied religions of the world to European readers. In seven splendidly illustrated folio volumes that appeared from 1723 to 1737, Religious Ceremonies of the World offered—at least to anyone strong enough to lift one of the volumes and open it—a tableau of the world’s priests and believers, in action.” “A Jewel of a Thousand Facets,” New York Review of Books June 24, 2010.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art holds a similar, large format print of this battle, engraved by Picart but after a design by Charles le Brun (1619-1790). Unfortunately no image has been posted on their database.

See more:
Philip Freeman, Alexander the Great (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011). (Dixon) Firestone DF234 .F74 2011
Lynn Avery Hunt, The Book That Changed Europe: Picart & Bernard’s Religious Ceremonies of the World (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010). Firestone BL80.3 .H86 2010