"The coronation of Napoleon": the analysis of the paintings of David

Napoleon Bonaparte-the French Emperor, whose coronation took place on 2 December 1804.

Jacques-Louis David during the revolutionary period

Event of this magnitude could not go unnoticed, and Napoleon a few months before the coronation commissioned paintings showing all the greatness of this action, the artist Jacques-Louis David.
David & ndash; representative of classicism in French painting. Participated in the revolutionary movement and advocated the overthrow of king of Louis XVI. has Created a series of paintings on the revolutionary theme: “Death of Marat”, “the Oath in the hall for ball games”. At about this time founded the national Museum in the Louvre.
"the Coronation of Napoleon" – a picture of David, located currently in the Louvre, and see it all, visitors to the Museum. Actually, the original name of the cloth - "the Consecration of Emperor Napoleon I and coronation of the Empress Josephine in Notre Dame Cathedral on 2 December 1804", but in everyday life most used is the shortened version.

Napoleon the artist took with great joy, as was his follower, and fully shared the views of the future Emperor. Moreover, after the death of Robespierre he longed for a new round of his work.

Preparing for the coronation of Napoleon I

Napoleon was famous for his love of Caesar and the Roman Empire as a whole, so his ascent to the throne would be held in accordance with their own tastes.
coronation in the style of Ancient Rome was preceded by a global training, and venue of the ceremony was the famous Notre Dame Cathedral which quickly rebuilt in the aftermath of the recent revolution, and adorned in the spirit of the ancient Empire.
‘’the Coronation of Napoleon’’ was the peak of the master, and contributed to the renewal of classicism through realism.

a picture of David

All of the shapes on the canvas has been carefully developed so that all stakeholders are well recognizable. In addition, the artist clearly showed his attitude to certain aspects that clearly come under criticism from the painter and in a measure give irreverence.
In the painting "Coronation of Napoleon" Jacques-Louis David tried to convey all the events of the ceremony.


for Example, the religious atmosphere of the entire procedure, the luxury and the pomp, and the Pope, dressed in gold and with a smug look on her face, not create an atmosphere of spirituality, but rather a joke. This is a basic disrespect. Since David had a revolutionary character, he represented Notre Dame as a place of gathering of Amateurs, and not as the temple of the Lord.
When the Emperor saw the finished painting, he asked the painter to change the scene where Dad is sitting with a blank look, with her hands folded in her lap. The argument of Napoleon was clear: he was forced to bring the servant of God from so far away so that he didn't do anything.

Classical realism David

Napoleon Himself was a representative of the petty bourgeoisie, and its appearance in a gorgeous Royal robe itself were to cause ridicule, but the painter was able to smooth over this fact, focusing on the masculinity and Majesty of his posture.

Future Empress Josephine had a very bad reputation, but her husband demanded to crown her, despite the fact that no other Queen has ever received this honor. To hush up this fact, David is portrayed submissive women, focusing on her external beauty.
On the verge of becoming a new Imperial regime in France, the realism of David gives some comical direction. Some critics see these symptoms in the picture of the ceremony. Having a critical mind, David could do so, if something does not suit, despite sympathy for the new leader.
Although David attended the ceremony and made some preparatory sketches, the picture is not an absolute representation of the real events. The artist has made some adjustments. A striking example is the image of the mother of the Emperor, majestically settled between the two Central columns in the background. In fact, she was not present at the coronation of his son, and was at that time in Rome. On canvas, she gives Napoleon worried-sad eyes.
one Can notice another distortion of reality. The painting depicts the ruler with a Laurel wreath on his head, while he actually took it off to wear the crown. Many believed that a wreath suitable for the Emperor more than the crown, so after some hesitation David gave preference to him.
If the artist followed the reality it is supposed to represent Napoleon at the feet of the Pope, and Josephine put even lower. However, knowing about the difficult relationship between the ruler and the representative of the clergy, he declined this idea.

So David stayed at the coronation of the Empress Napoleon.

Master also paid tribute to the image of magnificence architectural buildings. This can be seen through numerous vertical axis – three columns, an altar with tall candles.

Major characters

the painting depicts from 153 to 200 people, but not all of them can be identified. However, unmistakably recognized the following characters:
  • the cardinal FESH, cardinal Caprara, the Greek Patriarch, who settled around Pius VII;
  • the princes of Neuchatel and Ponte-Corvo, the French Chancellor, Viceroy of Italy, Prince Murat and the three marshals: they were a group of officers of the Emperor, at the head of each hat with feathers; and
  • brothers and sisters of Napoleon, ladies, princesses, make up the retinue of the Empress;
  • rotated to face the viewer Napoleon's mother, Madame su, Madame de Fontanges, Monsieur de Cosse Brissac, Mr de Laville and General Bowman.
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the Completion of a painting

In 1807 the work on the painting "the Coronation of Napoleon" was finished. Napoleon considered the canvas for about an hour, and then exclaimed that David coped with the task and created an Emperor needs role. Subsequently, the painting was put on public display, which gave her considerable popularity.


"the Coronation of Napoleon" (the year of the significant events listed at the beginning of the article) delighted the Parisians for a whole year. It is noteworthy that for their work, David asked a hundred thousand francs, which caused a lot of controversy with the Imperial "accounting", which found plenty of reasons not to give the fee.
Painting "Coronation of Napoleon" (start date of work on canvas - 21 December 1805, the completion - January 1808) was the great creation of its author.