The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries

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The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries
Jacques-Louis David - The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries - Google Art Project.jpg
Artist Jacques-Louis David
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions203.9 cm× 125.1 cm(80.3 in× 49.3 in)
Location National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries is an 1812 painting by Jacques-Louis David. It shows French Emperor Napoleon I in uniform in his study at the Tuileries Palace. Despite the detail, it is unlikely that Napoleon posed for the portrait. [1]

Jacques-Louis David French Neoclassical 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.

Tuileries Palace royal and imperial palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine

The Tuileries Palace was a royal and imperial palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine. It was the usual Parisian residence of most French monarchs, from Henry IV to Napoleon III, until it was burned by the Paris Commune in 1871.


It was a private commission from the Scottish nobleman and admirer of Napoleon, Alexander Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton in 1811 and completed in 1812. Originally shown at Hamilton Palace, it was sold to Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery in 1882, from whom it was bought by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in 1954, which deposited it in Washington D.C.'s National Gallery of Art, where it now hangs. [2]

Alexander Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton Scottish peer, politician and art collector

Alexander Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton, 7th Duke of Brandon KG PC FRS FSA was a Scottish politician and art collector.

Hamilton Palace

Hamilton Palace was a large country house located north-east of Hamilton in Lanarkshire, Scotland. The former seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, it was built in 1695 and subsequently much enlarged. Widely acknowledged as having been one of the grandest houses in Britain, the palace was demolished in 1927, due to the prohibitive cost of upkeep and the subsidence caused by the nearby mine at Bothwellhaugh.

Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery British politician

Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, 1st Earl of Midlothian, was a British Liberal politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from March 1894 to June 1895. Between the death of his father, in 1851, and the death of his grandfather, the 4th Earl of Rosebery, in 1868 he was known by the courtesy title of Lord Dalmeny.


Vertical in format, it shows Napoleon standing, three-quarters life size, wearing the uniform of a colonel of the Imperial Guard Foot Grenadiers (blue with white facings and red cuffs). He also wears his Légion d'honneur and Order of the Iron Crown decorations, along with gold epaulettes, white French-style culottes and white stockings. His face is turned towards the viewer and his right hand is in his jacket.

Imperial Guard (Napoleon I)

The Imperial Guard was originally a small group of elite soldiers of the French Army under the direct command of Napoleon I, but grew considerably over time. It acted as his bodyguard and tactical reserve, and he was careful of its use in battle. The Guard was divided into the staff, infantry, cavalry, and artillery regiments, as well as battalions of sappers and marines. The guard itself as a whole distinguished between the experienced veterans and less experienced members by being separated into three sections: the Old Guard, Middle Guard and Young Guard.

Order of the Iron Crown

The Order of the Iron Crown was an order of merit that was established on June 5, 1805, by Napoleon Bonaparte under his title of King Napoleon I of Italy.

Piled on the desk are a pen, several books, dossiers and rolled papers. More rolled papers and a map are on the green carpet to the left of the desk - on these papers is the painter's signature LVDci DAVID OPVS 1812. All this, along with Napoleon's unbuttoned cuffs, wrinkled stockings, disheveled hair, the flickering candles and the time on the clock (4.13am) are all meant to imply he has been up all night, writing laws such as the Code Napoléon - the word "Code" is prominent on the rolled papers on the desk. This maintains his new civil rather than heroic (as in Canova's Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker ) or military (as in David's own Napoleon Crossing the Alps ) image, though the sword on the chair's armrest still refers back to his military successes. The fleurs-de-lys and heraldic bees also imply the stability of the imperial dynasty. [1]

<i>Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker</i> statue by Antonio Canova

Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker is a colossal heroic nude statue by the Italian artist Antonio Canova, of Napoleon I of France in the guise of the Roman god Mars. He holds a gilded Nike or Victory standing on an orb in his right hand and a staff in his left. It was produced between 1802 and 1806 and stands 3.45 metres to the raised left hand. Once on display in the Louvre in Paris, it was purchased from Louis XVIII in 1816 by the British government, which granted it to the Duke of Wellington. It is now on display in Robert Adam's stairwell at the Duke's London residence, Apsley House.

<i>Napoleon Crossing the Alps</i> series of paintings by Jacques-Louis David in 5 versions

Napoleon Crossing the Alps is the title given to the five versions of an oil on canvas equestrian portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte painted by the French artist Jacques-Louis David between 1801 and 1805. Initially commissioned by the King of Spain, the composition shows a strongly idealized view of the real crossing that Napoleon and his army made across the Alps through the Great St. Bernard Pass in May 1800.

Second version

The second version Napoleon-aux-tuileries.jpg
The second version

A second version painted by David, showing exactly the same scene but with Napoleon in his more everyday green mounted chasseurs uniform, was formerly in Prince Napoleon's[ who? ] collection and has since 1979 been in that of the Château de Versailles.


An analysis of the original painting reveals that the artist reedited the composition and details several times to balance the image, add allusions, and capture a complete story.

Brush strokes and texture indicate that an earlier version had Napoleon's upper body flanked by two fluted columns about the width of the figure's torso. These strong vertical elements would have created a distraction from the central figure.

These columns were revised to a carved panel in shadow (on the viewer's left) and a clock with a large face (viewer's right) on level with and somewhat larger than the figure's face. The clock was later repainted with a smaller face moved up and to the right, with the clock body still covering the underlying column brush strokes.

These revisions greatly improved the compositional balance of the painting's upper section, reducing the impression of three vertical columns. They successfully moved the viewer's focus to Napoleon's face and expression and away from the presumably accurate stature and middle-heavy build.

The change also allowed incorporating additional symbology, most notably the time (4:13).

Other revisions were added symbols on the table items and lower section, many painted over fleurs-de-lis which are conspicuously rare in the final image.

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Neoclassicism is a movement in architecture, design and the arts which was dominant in France between about 1760 to 1830. It emerged as a reaction to the frivolity and excessive ornament of the baroque and rococo styles. In architecture it featured sobriety, straight lines, and forms, such as the pediment and colonnade, based on Ancient Greek and Roman models. In painting it featured heroism and sacrifice in the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks. It began late in the reign of Louis XV, became dominant under Louis XVI, and continued through the French Revolution, the French Directory, and the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Bourbon Restoration until 1830, when it was gradually replaced as the dominant style by romanticism and eclecticism.


External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg David's The Emperor Napoleon In His Study at the Tuileries, Smarthistory [3]
  1. 1 2 "The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries - Notes". National Gallery of Art. Accessed 21 August 2010.
  2. "The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries - Provenance". National Gallery of Art. Accessed 8 January 2013.
  3. "David's The Emperor Napoleon In His Study at the Tuileries". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved January 8, 2013.

Further reading