AP English 11
13 November 2012
The Rise and Fall
It is November 9, the Year of Our Lord 1799, and a battered French army begins the arduous climb up the Alps, just as a light snow begins to gently fall, a precursor of the hardship and bone chilling temperatures to come. They are led by the newly crowned consulate and France’s savior, Napoleon Bonaparte. There is a fear that Genoa may fall to Austrians. This fateful journey was captured in a painting by artist, Jacques-Louis David, who was a fervent supporter of the French Revolution. This painting was a gift and peace offering by the Spanish King to Napoleon in 1812, and it captures Napoleon, adorned with an embroidered coat and a deep red cloak, mounted on his steed and pointing up and away from the picture. In the background the French army climbs the steep and twisted path up the rugged terrain of the Alps. A thin layer of new snow lies on the ground and overhead dark and foreboding clouds loom. While the motive of David in his painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps is unclear, his peerless piece of art captures the tender emotions of the viewer with the use of a stark contrast between foreground and background, a diagonal line that appears in several important facets of the painting, and an expression on the face of Napoleon, himself, that calls to the viewer.
David’s historic recreation of Napoleon’s daring attempt to cross the Alps emanates and exudes the feeling of power, while at the same time foreshadowing the dire events to come. Payne 2
When the viewer first lays eyes on this painting, they are brought to the center of the photograph. The sharp contrast of Napoleon’s deep red cloak, a symbol of vigor and courage, stands apart from the dark and cloudy background. The eye’s then continue from the cloak, past his face, and up to his outstretched finger, which is pointing to the heavens. This gesture, made by Napoleon, instills in the viewer a notion of the future...