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Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries is an 1812 painting by Jacques Louis David. It shows Napoleon I of France in uniform in his study at the Tuileries.

It was a private commission from the Scottish nobleman and fan 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 DC's National Gallery of Art, where it now hangs.

Iconography
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 L├ęgion 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.
 
The second version
The office is on the right-hand first-floor of the Tuileries, with a wooden chair decorated in red velvet and gold embroidery and an Empire style desk on a sculpted stone base decorated with a lion's head. 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 desk's left - on these papers is the painter's signature LVDci DAVID OPVS 1812. All this, along with Napoleons' 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 Napoleon - 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.

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