Presentation on theme: "Gros, Antoine-Jean (Baron) (1771-1835) General Bonaparte on the bridge at Arcole, 17 November, 1796 Versailles, Musée National du Château."— Presentation transcript:
Gros, Antoine-Jean (Baron) (1771-1835) General Bonaparte on the bridge at Arcole, 17 November, 1796 Versailles, Musée National du Château
Young Napoleon The first emblematic image of the Napoleonic myth, this painting exalts the virtues of the military leader, as embodied by the young General Bonaparte at the head of the Armée d'Italie. In reality, Arcole bridge was not crossed. But that is not important. Here the artist glorifies the episode and makes it part of the legend. Drive, courage, overpowering will pour out of this edgy yet passionate picture. Gros had in fact been present at the Battle of Arcole, and thanks to the intervention of Josephine, he managed to get Bonaparte in Milan to sit for him several times. What Gros highlights is the image of Bonaparte as the providential saviour, the conquering hero who leads his troops, sabre in hand, seizing victory through his bravery alone.
Gros, Antoine-Jean (Baron) (1771-1835) Bonaparte visiting the plague victims of Jaffa, 11 March, 1799 Paris, Musée du Louvre
Suppressing the rumors This masterpiece, a precursor of Romanticism, was commissioned by Napoléon in an attempt to quash rumors that he had poisoned French troops suffering from the plague during the Syrian campaign. Painted and exhibited in 1804, coinciding exactly with the creation of the Empire, this propaganda work takes on another dimension. By touching the plague victims with complete disregard for the disease, Bonaparte sets himself alongside the kings who wrought miracles, whose touch could heal scrofula, who interceded between god and mankind. This evocation of divine power in a scene in the Holy Land perfectly expresses the dynasty's desires for legitimacy.
David, Jacques Louis (1748-1825) Napoleon in his study in the Tuileries Palace Washington, National Gallery of Art
The multi-tasker Totally unlike traditional portraits of sovereigns in their robes of state, this standing portrait is a realist allegory of the emperor's civilian activities. Napoleon is wearing the blue uniform (with white lapels) of a Colonel of the Grenadiers à pied de la Garde, normally worn on Sundays, the green Chasseurs à cheval uniform being for daily use. He is in the trademark stance, his right hand is thrust inside his waistcoat. The candles are burned down, the clock shows four in the morning, his pen and paper are thrown down on the desk, everything is designed to imply that he has just spent all night working on the Code Civil. Dawn is rising and the emperor is preparing to go and review his troops. The picture's message is clear: the military leader is also a powerful statesman, administrator and legislator, whose capacity for work is unparalleled.
David, Jacques Louis (1748-1825) The sacre or coronation of the Emperor Napoleon I Paris, Musée du Louvre
Coronation An ambitious composition representing the coronation, which took place on 2 December, 1804, in Notre-Dame cathedral, this canvas took three years of detailed work to complete. David, who had in 1804 received the title of «Premier Peintre de l'Empereur», created a monumental group portrait in which everything conspires to push the viewer's attention towards the central scene. It is in fact the coronation of Josephine, not that of Napoleon, which is the subject of the painting. The harmony of the composition is remarkable, with the figures set either side of the large central gold cross. The huge size of the work (six meters tall by ten meters wide) made it possible to indulge in the remarkable luxury of painting identifying features for each character – even for Madame Mère, who though absent from the ceremony nevertheless dominates the foreground of tribune! In expressing his satisfaction for the painting, Napoleon is said to have remarked: "This is not painting; you walk in this work".
Gros, Antoine-Jean (Baron) (1771-1835) Napoleon visiting the battlefield of Eylau, 9 February, 1807 Paris, Musée du Louvre
Battle of Eylau Eylau was made the subject of a competition in March 1807, less than a month after the terrible battle which resulted in more than 50,000 French and Russian victims. Whilst underlining the French victory, the principal purpose of the winning picture was to express Napoleon's emotions in the face of such carnage. "If all the kings of the earth could view such a spectacle, they would be less keen on wars and conquest", the emperor is said to have declared. Gros, the winner of the competition, here in this picture reached the summit of his art, elevating history painting to a level never equaled, before or since. Under a leaden sky, his face washed out but marked with immense pity, Napoleon crosses the battlefield dotted with corpses. Set against the dark silhouette of Murat, the personification of the pitiless warrior, the emperor is the embodiment of humanity and compassion. Here for the first time victory's dark side, the other side of the coin, is painted in all its cruel reality.
Charlet, Nicolas-Toussaint (1792 - 1845) An episode from the retreat from Russia, 1812 Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Russian retreat It was the Romantic generation, the ‘children of their time', brought up on nostalgia for the Napoleonic epic, who took to painting the disaster of the retreat from Russia. Charlet, a pupil of Gros's and best known for his lithographs, presented this poignant and intensely dramatic canvas at the Salon of 1836. Here we are shown the remains of the Grande Armée, directionless, anonymous soldiers, gradually sinking beneath a snow storm. Musset, astounded by the picture, wrote: "This is man in his wretchedness, alone under a darkening sky, earth frozen solid, without a guide, without a leader, completely faceless - this is despair in the desert".