The Coronation of Napoleon

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The Coronation of Napoleon
Jacques-Louis David - The Coronation of Napoleon (1805-1807).jpg
Artist Jacques-Louis David
Year1805–07 (exhibited 1808)
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions6.21 m× 9.79 m(20 ft 4 in× 32 ft 1 in)
Location Louvre, Paris, France
Detail of Napoleon Napoleon Ier, detail, Jacques-Louis David.jpg
Detail of Napoleon

The Coronation of Napoleon [lower-alpha 1] (French : Le Sacre de Napoléon) is a painting completed in 1807 by Jacques-Louis David, the official painter of Napoleon, depicting the coronation of Napoleon I at Notre-Dame de Paris. The painting has imposing dimensions, as it is almost 10 metres (33 ft) wide by a little over 6 metres (20 ft) tall. The work is held in the Louvre in Paris.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Jacques-Louis David French painter

Jacques-Louis David was a French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era. In the 1780s his cerebral brand of history painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity toward classical austerity and severity and heightened feeling, harmonizing with the moral climate of the final years of the Ancien Régime.

Napoleon 19th century French military leader and politician

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader of Italian descent who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.


History of the work

The work was commissioned by Napoleon orally in September 1804, and Jacques-Louis David started work on it on 21 December 1805 in the former chapel of the College of Cluny, near the Sorbonne, which served as a workshop. Assisted by his student Georges Rouget, he put the finishing touches in January 1808.

Sorbonne historical monument

The Sorbonne is a building in the Latin Quarter of Paris which from 1253 on housed the College of Sorbonne, part of one of the first universities in the world, later renamed University of Paris and commonly known as “the Sorbonne”. Today, it continues to house the successor universities of the University of Paris, including Sorbonne University, as well as the Chancellerie des Universités de Paris.

Georges Rouget French painter

Georges Rouget was a neoclassical French painter.

From 7 February to 21 March 1808, the work was exhibited at the Salon annual painting display in 1808, and it was presented to the Salon decennial prize competition in 1810. The painting remained the property of David until 1819, when it was transferred to the Royal Museums, where it was stored in the reserves until 1837. Then, it was installed in the Chamber Sacre of the museum of the historical Palace of Versailles on the orders of King Louis-Philippe. In 1889, the painting was transferred to the Louvre from Versailles.

Louvre Art museum and Historic site in Paris, France

The Louvre, or the Louvre Museum, is the world's largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city's 1st arrondissement. Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square metres. In 2018, the Louvre was the world's most visited art museum, receiving 10.2 million visitors.

David was commissioned by American entrepreneurs to paint a full size replica, in 1808, immediately after the release of the original. He began work that year, painting it from memory, but didn't finish until 1822, during his exile in Brussels. The replica was eventually returned to France in 1947, to the original's place in the Palace of Versailles. [1]

Brussels Capital region of Belgium

Brussels, officially the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. Brussels is the most densely populated and the richest region in Belgium in terms of GDP per capita. It covers 161 km2 (62 sq mi), a relatively small area compared to the two other regions, and has a population of 1.2 million. The metropolitan area of Brussels counts over 2.1 million people, which makes it the largest in Belgium. It is also part of a large conurbation extending towards Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven and Walloon Brabant, home to over 5 million people.

The painting is a subject of The Public Viewing David's 'Coronation' at the Louvre', a painting by Louis-Léopold Boilly done in 1810, currently housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. [2]

Louis-Léopold Boilly

Louis-Léopold Boilly was a French painter and draftsman. A gifted creator of popular portrait paintings, he also produced a vast number of genre paintings vividly documenting French middle-class social life. His life and work spanned the eras of monarchical France, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Empire, the Bourbon Restoration and the July Monarchy.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Art museum in New York City, New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, colloquially "the Met", is the largest art museum in the United States. With 6,953,927 visitors to its three locations in 2018, it was the third most visited art museum in the world. Its permanent collection contains over two million works, divided among seventeen curatorial departments. The main building, on the eastern edge of Central Park along Museum Mile in Manhattan's Upper East Side is by area one of the world's largest art galleries. A much smaller second location, The Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, contains an extensive collection of art, architecture, and artifacts from Medieval Europe. On March 18, 2016, the museum opened the Met Breuer museum at Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side; it extends the museum's modern and contemporary art program.


Sketch of emperor Napoleon crowning himself. Drawing by David, kept at the Louvre. David - L'Empereur Napoleon se couronnant lui-meme.png
Sketch of emperor Napoleon crowning himself. Drawing by David, kept at the Louvre.

The composition is organised around several axes, and incorporates the rules of neoclassicism. One axis is that which passes through the cross and has a vertical orientation. A diagonal line runs from the pope to the empress. All eyes are turned towards Napoleon, who is the center of the composition.

Neoclassicism Western art movements that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome

Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of classical antiquity. Neoclassicism was born largely thanks to the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, at the time of the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but its popularity spread all over Europe as a generation of European art students finished their Grand Tour and returned from Italy to their home countries with newly rediscovered Greco-Roman ideals. The main Neoclassical movement coincided with the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment, and continued into the early 19th century, laterally competing with Romanticism. In architecture, the style continued throughout the 19th, 20th and up to the 21st century.

Pope Leader of the Catholic Church

The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the bishop of Rome and leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has also been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.


The Characters in the painting Jacques-Louis David Sacre.jpg
The Characters in the painting
  1. Napoleon I (1769–1821), is standing, dressed in coronation robes similar to those of Roman emperors. Others are merely passive spectators. In the actual painting it is possible to see the outline of what was originally painted: Napoleon holding the crown above his own head, as if placing on himself.
  2. Joséphine de Beauharnais (1763–1814), is kneeling in a submissive position, as called for in the French Civil Code. She received the crown from the hands of her husband, not the pope. Her robe is decorated with silk according to a contemporary cartoon by Jean-Francois Bony.[ citation needed ]
  3. Maria Letizia Ramolino (1750–1836), mother of Napoleon, was placed in the stands by the painter. She occupies a place more important than the pope. Actually, she did not attend the ceremony to protest the friction of Napoleon with his brothers Lucien and Joseph. Napoleon's father, Charles Bonaparte, died in 1785. Maria Letizia asked the painter to give it a place of honour. In 1808, when Napoleon discovered the canvas completed in the workshop of David, he was enthralled, and expressed his gratitude to the painter who had managed to convey to posterity the tribute paid to the affection he was carrying to a woman who shared with him the burden of his office.[ citation needed ]
  4. Louis Bonaparte (1778–1846), who at the beginning of the empire received the title of grand constable, King of Holland, in 1806. He married Hortense de Beauharnais, the daughter of Josephine.
  5. Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844), who was not invited and did not attend because of an argument with Napoleon. This is why his mother did not attend either. After the coronation, he received the title of imperial prince. Then he was king of Naples in 1806 and Spain in 1808.
  6. The young Napoleon Charles Bonaparte (1802–1807), son of Louis Bonaparte and Hortense de Beauharnais.
  7. The sisters of Napoleon. In the replica, the dress of Napoleon's favorite sister will be pink. This is the only change in the replica despite being painted from memory.
  8. Charles-Francois Lebrun (1739–1824), the third consul alongside Napoleon and Cambacérès. Under the First Empire, he took the place of prince-architrésorier. He holds the sceptre.
    Turbaned Ottoman ambassador Halet Efendi in The Coronation of Napoleon (detail). Jacques-Louis David The Coronation of Napoleon Halet Efendi detail.jpg
    Turbaned Ottoman ambassador Halet Efendi in The Coronation of Napoleon (detail).
  9. Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès (1753–1824), arch-chancellor prince of the empire. He takes the hand of justice.
  10. Louis-Alexandre Berthier (1753–1815), minister of war under the Consulate. Marshal Empire in 1805. He keeps the globe surmounted by a cross.
  11. Talleyrand (1754–1836), grand chamberlain since July 11, 1804.
  12. Joachim Murat (1767–1815), marshal of empire, king of Naples after 1808, brother-in-law of Napoleon and husband of Caroline Bonaparte.
  13. Pope Pius VII (1742–1823), was content to bless the coronation. He is surrounded by dignitaries clerics, appointed by Napoleon since the Concordat. In order not to jeopardize the new balance between Church and State, the pope accepted to attend the coronation.[ citation needed ] The original sketches (as was typical in those days) showed the (key) subjects - including the Pope - minus their clothing, which was added in the actual painting. The pope was originally pictured with hands crossed on his lap, but Napoleon, supposedly claiming that the Pope was not present to do nothing, instructed that the painting depict him anointing the proceedings.
  14. The painter Jacques-Louis David is depicted in the stands as well.
  15. Halet Efendi, an Ottoman ambassador, was also present. He is shown below in the detailed picture.
  16. Dom Raphaël de Monachis, Greek-Egyptian monk and member of the Institut d'Égypte is depicted among the clergy men, standing to the right of the Bishop, with a beard and a red hood.
  17. The lady robe bearer in front, right behind Josephine, on the right side from the picture-viewer's point, is Elisabeth-Hélène-Pierre de Montmorency-Laval, mother of politician Sosthènes II de La Rochefoucauld. She was a court lady of Josephine.

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  1. The full official title is Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on 2 December 1804.
  1. Bordes, Philippe (January 2007). Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile. Yale University Press. pp. IX, 28, 293, 297, 333. ISBN   0-300-12346-9.
  2. "Louis Léopold Boilly | The Public Viewing David's "Coronation" at the Louvre | The Met". The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. Retrieved 2016-06-21.