Oil painting Portrait of Napoleon I in his coronation robes, by Anne-Louis Girodet
|1804-1821, circa 1812
|Romanticism - Neoclassicism
|Oil on canvas + large gilded frame with crowned eagles in the corners
|98 cm (W) x 117 cm (H)
|Where to be found within the War Heritage Institute
|Royal Military Museum, storage
Representation of Napoleon
Napoleon is depicted in a long red velvet cloak embellished with embroidered bees and trimmed with ermine fur. He stands upright on two steps covered with a green carpet and next to a table covered in a dark blue tablecloth with gold fringes. His right arm is held outstretched sideways and, as if he has the whole world in his grasp, his hand hovers above a golden globe. This is positioned on a dark blue velvet cushion with gold trim and is topped with a cross. A sceptre topped with an eagle lies on the table next to the cushion. Behind the emperor we see the light blue and gold-trimmed back of a chair.
Did you know that...
the work was restored by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in 1966? Examination of the painting could not reveal the artist’s signature. Yet it is clear that this work of art is part of a tradition in which identical portraits served to embellish public spaces, as happens today with photographed state portraits. This detailed portrait of Napoleon by Anne-Louis Girodet may have been the principal portrait on which the artist based other less detailed portraits of Napoleon.
What makes this painting of Napoleon a top piece?
This painting of Napoleon is internationally renowned. It has been shown several times in various exhibitions, both in Belgium and abroad, with good reason! This work of art is regularly displayed at the entrance to exhibitions, as a kind of signboard.
Napoleon is depicted in a magnificent ermine cloak and with a laurel wreath on his head. This propagandistic portrayal of the emperor illustrates the height of his megalomaniacal hunger for power. Girodet also expertly demonstrates his talent for rendering various materials on and around the imperial persona, which shine through the varnish applied to the painting.
-Vera Bras, collection manager Fine Arts/Iconography, War Heritage Institute