This near-life size 19th century hand-colored lithograph depicts a Tirailleur Algérian (Algerian sharphooter), a light infantryman of the Armée d’Afrique, which was developed by the French during the colonization of North Africa.
The tirailleurs were officially created under the Second Empire in 1855 and were predominantly made up of native servicemen. The soldiers wore Zouave-style uniforms refered to as tenue oriental (Oriental dress), which comprised a blue jacket with yellow braiding worn over a sleeveless vest, blue harem trousers, a red sash at the waist and a fez or turban worn on the head. Algerian tirailleurs served in the Crimean war, the Second Italian War of Independence, the second Franco-Mexican war, and the Franco-Prussian War, as well as colonial campaigns in North Africa. They acquired the nickname Turcos (Turks) during the Crimean war, by which they were widely known over the following century. Figure 1 depicts a late 19th century photograph of a group of Tirailleur Algérians.