Napoleonic Art

Topics: Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Paul Marat, The Death of Marat Pages: 6 (1847 words) Published: November 13, 2013
The Coronation of Napoleon
Jacques Louis David
1807
The Coronation of Napoleon was an extremely important work of art during this time, as it dictated both a political and symbolic message. Napoleon I had risen to the title of Emperor in May 1804 and his coronation took place the grand Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris on December 2 of the same year. He commissioned artist Jacques Louis David to commemorate the event on a canvas measuring over five hundred square feet! To prove his independence and legitimacy, Napoleon crowned himself facing the crowd instead of the high alter, this ensured his authority over the Catholic Church and the French monarchy. David's first sketches clearly illustrated his self-appointment, however the final product shows him crowning his Empress Josephine instead. This made Napoleon seem less authoritarian, noble, unselfish and in his own words "a French knight".

David also had painted other influential people: Napoleon's mother smiling down on him from the VIP box (who was not actually at the event), his two brothers and two sisters in the crowd, the pope sitting among the cardinals and bishops behind Napoleon and the kneeling Josephine who was made to look younger for the piece. He used rich furs and vibrant colours to get across the luxury and glamour of high society in France. Napoleon himself donned a laurel wreath, exuding the essence of a Roman Emperor.

To recreate this historic moment, David witnessed the actual ceremony, drew inspiration from Rubens's Coronation of Marie de Medici 1610 and made a reconstruction of the event in a studio with cardboard models and wax figurines. After 3 years the painting was completed, when Napoleon first saw it he exclaimed "What relief, what truthfulness! This is not a painting; one walks in this picture.". David finally realized the future implications this painting would hold and he responded, "I shall slide into posterity in the shadow of my hero.". His piece of maliciously crafted political propaganda would be a glimpse at the beginning of the Napoleonic Era.(Dorbani)

Portrait of Madame Récamier
Jacques Louis David
1800
Juliette Recamier was the daughter of a notary and exemplified the social hierarchy of the new, post-revolutionary elite. Her husband, was one of the principal financial backers of the First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte. Although only twenty three, she was the most admired woman and dominated French society of her time. An invitation to her salon would not be refused and crowds flocked her mansion in Paris; she was a celebrity of her time. (Huguenaud)

Jacques Louis David was commissioned to paint her portrait but, he never finished the piece, for unknown reasons. The legend is that he wasn't pleased with his sketch and wanted to begin again, she had conflicting tastes with him and concluded in asking one of his pupils to do the portrait instead. When he was told he exclaimed, "Madame, women have their caprices; artists have theirs too. Allow me to pander to mine; I shall keep your portrait as it stands.", to the diva herself. The unfinished esthetic conveys a sort of poetry, the glazed over look of the brushstrokes that are never ending simulate a dream. (François)

She is dressed in a vintage style, long white dress, is barefoot and her head is turned towards the viewer. There is a antique sofa, stool and lamp, other than that the room was empty. This portrait broke the mould of David's previous works, since it was not just of her bust but her body and simulated the real distance from the subject to the artist. The simplicity evoked a soft, feminine elegance, even if it was intended or not. Récamier embodied the ideal French woman, as this portrait revealed what was expected of women at the time. In addition, she represented a new class of people post revolution, sophisticated, poised and opulent. Even if this wasn't the final product David had envisioned, this painting affirmed society and culture in France using...


Cited: David, Jaques Louis. The Death of Marat. 1793. Oil on canvas. Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels.
David, Jaques Louis
David, Jaques Louis. Napoleon Crossing the Alps. 1800. Oil on canvas. Château De Malmaison, Rueil-Malmaison.
David, Jaques Louis
François, De Vergnette. "Work Madame Récamier." Madame Récamier. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2013.
Huguenaud, Karine
"The Sabine Women - Jacques-Louis David." The Sabine Women - Jacques-Louis David. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2013.
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