Creation Date: 1801
Size: 102.3 × 87 in. (261× 221 cm)
Media: Oil on canvas
Location: Château de Malmaison, Rueil-Malmaison, France
All of the detail and in-context photos are by me.
Although Napoleon was a terrible and deeply flawed person (he reminds me of Gail Wynand actually), independent of the specifics of history, I have always loved this painting which is why I am posting it for the one-year anniversary of this blog. In fact, it is one of my favorites--a powerful view of man as a capable and heroic being. When Napoleon commissioned it, he said he wanted to be portrayed as "calm on a fiery steed," which is an idea that I love.
When I went to Malmaison to see it the staff was kind enough to accommodate my unique interest in this painting by moving the stanchions away for me, letting me get very close and they even opened up the blinds to let more light in for me. It was a wonderful experience and a real treat to get some special service.
The history of this painting is very interesting. For instance, I think it is interesting to know that Napoleon only posed for the face and that David used a mannequin that wore Napoleon's real uniform. Also, there are six (!) versions of this painting that were created by David and his pupils. Each has slight differences such as the color of the horse, some of the background details and the color of Napoleon's clothing.
Before I saw it on display I did not know that an informational card (blue--lower right) actually blocks a portion of the painting! Also, the painting in it's frame barely fits in the room.