24 May 2021
Jacques-Louis-Davis, Napoleon-Bonaparte franchissant le Grand-Saint-Bernard, 1801
with Chris Boïcos
France is this year commemorating (though not “celebrating”) the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death in exile in St Helena. There is no other historical figure who was painted and sculpted as much and in so many guises as Napoleon Bonaparte.
Our lecture will explore the most significant depictions of the wily Corsican who ended up conquering Europe. From young and romantic revolutionary general, to Caesar-like Emperor, to pathetically defeated figure, surrounded by his family and adoring soldiers or brooding alone, the image of Napoleon is in a constant state of evolution. In this, it reflects the extraordinary speed of his career and the lasting power of the Napoleonic cult even after his defeat and death. Jacques-Louis David, François Gérard, Jean-Antoine Gros, J. A. D. Ingres, Paul Delaroche, Ernest Meissonier and Jean-Léon Gerôme are among the best-known painters of Napoleon in his own lifetime or after his death.
Paul Delaroche, Bonaparte franchissant les Alpes, 1848-50, Musée du Louvre
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