Kurz and Allison, known for their visually striking chromolithographs of significant historical events, have produced this remarkable view of the final hours of Port Arthur. This chromolithograph depicts one of the critical episodes of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), offering a vivid portrayal of the intense final battle fought over the strategic Russian-held naval base at Port Arthur.
The visual narrative of the piece is dominated by Japanese infantry in the foreground, their bayonets drawn, attacking and overpowering the defending Russian soldiers. A Japanese bugler and flag-bearer stand at the center, symbolizing the forward thrust of the Japanese forces. To their right, Japanese artillery fires, contributing to the assault and demonstrating the technological prowess of the Japanese military.
Artillery shells explode around the fortified Russian positions, which are protected by barbed wire and sandbags. Most of the Russian soldiers, depicted behind their defensive structures, attempt to repel the onslaught, but their posture suggests a losing battle. The imposing edifice of the Port Arthur fort towers in the background, its presence underscoring the high stakes of this strategic clash.
Adding a personal touch to the grand scene are the portraits of General Anatoly Stoessel and General Maresuke Nogi, key figures of the battle, featured in the upper corners of the piece.
General Anatoly Stoessel (1848-1915) was the Russian commander in charge of the defenses of Port Arthur. Despite his early successes, Stoessel's leadership during the siege has been criticized, especially his decision to surrender Port Arthur when some supplies and defensive positions remained.
On the other side, General Maresuke Nogi (1849-1912) led the Japanese forces. Known for his tenacity and strict adherence to the bushido code, Nogi's leadership, though costing heavy Japanese casualties, eventually led to the capture of Port Arthur, earning him national fame in Japan.
The Siege of Port Arthur, which lasted from August 1, 1904, to January 2, 1905, was one of the longest and deadliest battles of the Russo-Japanese War. Both sides sustained heavy casualties, but the siege ended with the Japanese capture of the fort. This marked a significant turning point, as it was the first time in modern history that an Asian power had defeated a European one, altering the balance of power in the region.