Friday, June 28, 2013

Portrait of Caroline Murat with her daughter, Letizia (1807)

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun: Portrait of Caroline Murat with her daughter, Letizia

Here's another of Vigée Le Brun's portraits of the French upper crust. This one is of Caroline Murat, one of Napoleon's sisters. She married one of Napoleon's generals, Joachim Murat (Empress Josephine persuaded Napoleon to allow the marriage). Murat became the King of Naples, and Caroline the "Queen Consort".

It turns out that she is the great-great-great-grandmother of this guy:

Constable Odo of Deep Space Nine (aka the actor René Auberjonois)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Painter Francois-Marius Granet (1807)

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: The Painter Francois-Marius Granet 

Granet was a French painter whose greatest fame came from his paintings done in Rome. We'll see some of these in due time.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Princess Louise of Baden (1807)

Jean-Laurent Mosnier: Princess Louise of Baden

The subject was also known as Elizaveta Alexeevna, wife of Russian Tsar Alexander I. She was handpicked as a bride for Alexander by his grandmother, the redoubtable Catherine the Great. Upon marriage, she converted to the Russian Orthodox faith and changed her name from Louise Maria Auguste to Elizaveta Alexeevna.

About Mosnier, there seems to be little information online. I found this snippet on a French website (translation courtesy of Google):
Jean-Laurent Mosnier (1743-1808) studied at the Academy of St. Luke in Paris in 1766 and learned miniature painting. In 1776 he was appointed painter to Queen Marie-Antoinette and became a member of the Royal Academy in 1786; he became a full member in 1788.
Here's an earlier work of his:

Portrait of Frau Senator Elisabeth Hudtwalcker

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Portrait of Madame Duvaucey (1807)

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: Portrait of Madame Duvaucey

Below is a video interview of Ms. Nicole Garnier, general curator of the Heritage in charge of the Condé Museum, where the above painting is held (en Français).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine (1807)

After three weeks in 1806, it's on to 1807, and one of Jacques-Louis David's most famous paintings:

Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the 
Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on 2 Dec 1804 

 Commissioned by Napoleon himself in 1804, the finished painting is a huge canvas: 10 meters wide, 6 meters tall. It must have been one of David's most demanding works. Besides the scale, there is the vast detail. The central figure is, of course, Napoleon, holding a crown. Here is a key to some of the key personalities in the photo (thanks to Wikipedia).

  1. Napoleon
  2. Josephine
  3. Napoleon's mother
  4. Louis Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon and husband of Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Josephine by a previous marriage
  5. Joseph Bonaparte, another of Napoleon's brothers. He was not actually present at the event.
  6. Napoleon Charles Bonaparte, son of Louis Bonaparte and Hortense de Beauharnais
  7. Napoleon's sisters
  8. Charles-Francois Lebrun
  9. Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès 
  10. Louis-Alexandre Berthier 
  11. Talleyrand
  12. Joachim Murat, marshal of empire, became King of Naples in 1808, married Napoleon's sister Caroline
  13. Pope Pius VII
  14. The painter, Jacques-Louis David, painted himself into the stands

Here is the central part of the painting in more detail.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Minerva leading the Genius of Arts to Immortality (1806)

Pierre-Paul Prud’hon: Minerva leading the Genius of Arts to Immortality (study)

This is one of several studies that Prud'hon did for a painting that was never finished. It was intended to be a ceiling decoration in the Louvre. Various dates are given for these studies. 1806 is the earliest; I've seen 1811 and 1818 also. This was clearly intended as an allegorical Neoclassic painting. As a goddess, Minerva was often associated with the arts, in an inspirational capacity.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Portrait of Madame Aymon (1806)

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: Portrait of Madame Aymon (La Belle Zélie)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Sleep of Venus and Cupid (1806)

Marie-Constance Mayer: The Sleep of Venus and Cupid

Marie-Constance Mayer painted portraits, allegorical works and genre scenes. She studied with Joseph-Benoît Suvée, Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Pierre-Paul Prud'hon. It was Prud'hon with whom she had a star-crossed relationship: living with him for years as his "assistant" and "housekeeper," she committed suicide in 1822 in dramatic fashion (razor across the throat) when he refused to marry her, instead opting to join the religious life.  "Distressed by her death," Prud'hon himself died a year later; they are buried together.

Mayer was at one time a prominent enough artist that Napoleon himself purchased two of her works.

Below is Prud'hon's portrait of Mayer, done in 1804.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pauline Bonaparte, Princess Borghese (1806)

Robert Lefèvre: Pauline Bonaparte, Princess Borghese

Pauline Bonaparte was Napoleon's younger sister. has this to say about her:
Pauline was a famous beauty before even her sixteenth birthday, attracting a legion of admirers and causing her mother and brothers concern. The young Paoletta initially wanted to marry Stanislas Fréron, but her family disagreed; he may have been in Napoleon's employ, but he was also a forty year old syphilitic with a legendary reputation for philandering. Another admirer, Colonel Victor Emmanuel Leclerc, became Pauline's first husband on June 14th 1797 at Napoleon's insistence: he had found them making love in a corner of Milan's Mombello Palace a few weeks before. Nevertheless, marriage proved little impediment to the young Pauline, whose string of lovers and unrestrained promiscuity only added to the allure of her famed looks. Many women throughout history have been slandered by their enemies in such a way, but Pauline Bonaparte was one of the few whose reputation was deserved.
Pauline wasn't simply famous for her physical appetites, but also for her broader love of sensual and material pursuits: she brought masses of clothes, attended party after party and prompted vast amounts of gossip from France's upper classes. She acted in an impulsive and often childlike way, and it's not unfair to say she often seemed to inhabit a dreamlike world of her own. In contrast to her mother, Pauline exhibited little in the way of maternal instinct: when her only child by Leclerc - Dermide, born in 1798 - died aged 8, she was nowhere near his deathbed. The incident is notable because Napoleon worked to obscure the events, instead presenting Pauline in a more flattering, or at least imperial, light. Indeed, Napoleon produced plenty of propaganda aimed at defending her.
However, Pauline wasn't a political climber or a power-hungry schemer like others who surrounded Napoleon and, although she still received considerable gifts from him, the Emperor treated Pauline less lavishly than other siblings. Quite how much this has to do with her treatment of the Duchy of Guantalla, which Napoleon gifted to Pauline and she promptly sold to Parma for six million francs, is unclear; what's certain, is that this latter Bonaparte wasn't interested in ruling.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Card Sharp on the Boulevard (1806)

Louis-Leopold Boilly: The Card Sharp on the Boulevard

Here is another of Boilly's great genre scenes.  A great deal is going on in this picture, as in most of Boilly's canvases: the main figure of a huckster (the "card sharp") at the right spinning his web for a crowd of onlookers (no doubt seeking to separate them from their money), while at the left a prosperous looking gentleman is simultaneously propositioned by a prostitute and having his pocket picked by a young ne'er-do-well. Behind all of them are other people going about their business; a pastry shop is visible at rear left ("Patissier").

Monday, June 10, 2013

Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne (1806)

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne

Here is Ingres' most famous painting of Napoleon - a triumphalist portrait of the Emperor at the height of his power.  Oddly enough, the painting was criticized on various grounds at its first showing at the Salon of 1806. Jacques-Louis David expressed his disapproval, and critics found fault with the painting's "strange discordances of colour, the want of sculptural relief, the chilly precision of contour, and the self-consciously archaic quality." Regarding the "archaic quality," it is true that Ingres drew inspiration from the past - he was a great admirer of Raphael, for example. The criticism has been explained this way: "Ingres had depicted Napoleon as the embodiment of timeless authority, when what the French wanted was a man of the people." (source: Annenberg Learner)

More can be read about the painting at Napoleonics.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hortense de Beauharnais with her son Napoleon Charles Bonaparte (1806)

François Gérard: Hortense de Beauharnais with her son Napoleon Charles Bonaparte (detail)

Hortense de Beauharnais was the daughter of Empress Josephine (by her previous marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais, who died at the guillotine during the Reign of Terror). Hortense went on to marry Napoleon's brother Louis, in so doing becoming Queen Consort of Holland. Although Hortense would later give birth to the boy who become Napoleon III, the child depicted in the photo sadly died a year after it was painted.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Clemency of Napoleon to Madame de Hatzfeld (1806)

Marguerite Gerard: Clemency of Napoleon to Madame de Hatzfeld

This painting depicts an actual incident, described in the memoirs of the Duchesse d'Abrante as follows:
The Prince of Hatzfeld [husband of the lady in the picture, and Governor of Berlin at the time], it was known, had remained at Berlin after the departure of the King and Queen of Prussia, and it was quite natural that a man of his importance, if he chose to reside under such circumstances at Berlin, should be strictly watched. It was therefore rather simple of him to put into the post a letter for the king, in which he gave an account of all that was passing at Berlin, and also of the movements, number, and sentiments of the French troops. I do not wish to exculpate the prince's accusers, but certainly he had committed himself very unwisely, and I would not aver that in our own France, in the year of grace 1814, we were not in the same measure subjected to the rigorous examination of General Sacken. The fact is, that the Emperor, on reading this letter of the Prince of Hatzfeld, flew into one of those fits of rage which acquired for him the reputation of being the most passionate man under the sky. He instantly gave orders that a military commission should be assembled, that the Prince of Hatzfeld should be brought before it, and that it should make its report before it separated. On hearing this dreadful news his poor wife, almost out of her wits, remembered suddenly that Marshal Duroc, on his different journeys to Berlin, had always been hospitably received and entertained by the prince and herself. She quitted her house in a state bordering on distraction, sought in vain for Duroc, but learned that the Emperor was at Charlottenberg and Duroc not with him. She continued her pursuit, and at length found Duroc, who was affected by her distress. He was convinced that the Prince of Hatzfeld was lost if the princess could not see the Emperor that very day. He soothed her as well as he was able, knowing the danger her husband stood in: but he also knew the Emperor: he knew that in similar circumstances his heart was capable of great and magnanimous sentiments, and he believed that in the present state of affairs an action of clemency would be of as much value as the addition of a hundred thousand men to his army. "You shall see the Emperor," said he to the princess; "rely upon me."
     The Emperor had been to a grand review of his guards; they were out of humour because they had had no share in the victory of Jena, and the Emperor, unwilling to give them the least pain, had been to visit them; this caused his absence from Berlin. On his return he was surprised to find Duroc waiting for him with an air of great impatience. Duroc had been much interested by the despair of the Princess of Hatzfeld; since his interview with her he had seen two of her husband's judges, and had learnt that there was no hope for him. He requested an immediate audience of the Emperor, and followed him into his closet: 
     "You are come to tell me that the town of Berlin is in revolt, is it not so? I am not surprised, but they will have a terrible example to-morrow to cure them of the mania of revolting."
     Duroc saw that the Prince of Hatzfeld was in the worst case possible. He was convinced that the only successful advocate in his behalf would be the princess herself; he obtained permission to introduce her, and went to fetch her. The unfortunate wife, on being brought into the presence of the man who could kill or spare her husband, had only power to throw herself at Napoleon's feet . He raised her immediately, and spoke to her with the utmost kindness. Madame de Hatzfeld sobbed convulsively, and could only repeat, as it were mechanically: "Ah! Sire, my husband is innocent!"
     The Emperor made no answer, but went to his Escritoire, and taking from it the prince's letter, held it towards his wife in silence. She looked at the unfortunate paper, then burst into tears, and striking her forehead with her clasped hands, exclaimed in consternation: "Oh yes, it is his writing!"
     The Emperor was affected, it appears, by the frankness which in the hour of peril acknowledged the whole truth to him ; thus leaving him all the merit of the affair. He would not refuse it, but advancing to the princess put the fatal letter into her hands, saying with a graciousness which doubled the value of the favour: "Make what use you please of this paper, which is the only evidence against your husband; when it no longer exists I shall have no power to condemn him;" and he pointed to the fire which was blazing in the chimney.
     The letter was burned, and its flame was a bonfire of rejoicing for the deliverance of the prince. I know not whether he continued grateful, but I hope so for the sake of humanity.
     I have since learned from Duroc how much the Emperor was affected by the candour of the Princess of Hatzfeld. Her profound grief and reliance upon his mercy had penetrated to his heart. He had feelings of humanity and affection, whatever may be said to the contrary, and stronger, perhaps, than may be believed.
 The preceding is excerpted from Memoirs of Madame Junot, Duchesse d'Abrante, Vol. III (London, 1883). It's perhaps worthy of note that the Princess of Hatzfeld was eight months pregnant at the time of this incident; perhaps that swayed Napoleon towards mercy.

Another depiction of this incident was done by Louis Lafitte, as a drawing, shown below.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Battle of Aboukir (1806)

Antoine-Jean Gros: Battle of Aboukir, 25 July 1799

The Battle of Aboukir in 1799 represented a victory by Napoleon's forces over those of the Ottoman Empire. The victory resulted in France temporarily assuming control of Egypt.

Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835) was a Neoclassic painter who specialized in historical scenes. He trained in the studio of Jacques-Louis David.

Here's another painting of the Battle of Aboukir, by Louis Lejeune.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Demolition of the Château of Meudon (1806)

Hubert Robert: Demolition of the Château of Meudon

Hubert Robert (1733-1808) was truly an 18th century painter, best known for his realistic paintings of ruined buildings. This, one of his last paintings, depicts a very famous building, the Château of Meudon, being demolished. The château, once the home of the French Dauphin, fell into disrepair in the later 1700s and was ransacked during the French Revolution. Rather than depicting an actual incident, this canvas seems to portray allegorically, in an almost elegiac way, the destruction of old France to make way for the new order. The Getty Museum has a short video commentary on this painting that is worth watching.

Some examples of Robert's 18th century works are below.

 Ancient Ruins Used as Public Baths (1798)

 Bathing Pool (ca. 1753)

 Figures amongst Ruins inspired by the Temple of Saturn (1761)

 Interior of the Temple of Diana at Nîmes (1783)

 Pont du Gard (1786)

 Ruins of a Doric Temple

View of Ripetta (1766)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Scene of the Flood (1806)

Anne-Louis Girodet: Scene of the Flood

This dramatic and unsettling painting won Girodet a prize at the Salon of 1806. This is not your usual painting of a Biblical scene - clearly straying into allegory, it seems to depict humanity's struggle to survive in a hostile world. The central figure of the man appears to be striving heroically to save others. Though Girodet's style was firmly rooted in Neoclassicism, this painting very much anticipates Romanticism in its naked emotional impact.