The present lot depicts a decisive episode in the struggle for Italian unification. It was also known as the Battle of the Three Sovereigns, due to the participation of Napoleon III of France and his ally Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont-Sardinia (later king of a united Italy), who joined forces against the young Franz Josef of Austria. The French, allied to the Sardinians, with Emperor Napoleon III at their head, faced the Austrian troops. The first exchange of gunfire took place shortly after three in the morning. Around six o'clock a bright sunshine shone on some 300,000 men who were engaged in a fierce battle with each other. In the afternoon, the Austrians had to abandone their positions one by one. By nightfall the battlefield was strewn with more than 6,000 dead and 40,000 wounded. It was this horror and reality of war that drove Henry Dunant, by chance in the nearby village of Castiglione della Pieve, which was flooded with wounded, to lay the foundation for the International Red Cross. He wrote A Memory of Solferino in which he proposed that societies of trained volunteers be organized in all countries for the purpose of helping to care for wounded combatants in time of war.
We would like to thank Mr R.F. Reinders Folmer for identifying the subject of the present lot.