24 Bonaparte

Jean-Baptiste Morret (fl. 1790-1820) after Andrea Appiani (1754 – 1817)

1er Consul , c. 1800 – April 1804

Aquatint with hand-colouring

Published by Drouhin, Rue Hautefeuille, no.5, Paris

Andrea Appiani was chosen by Napoleon to be the official painter of the Imperial court, so it is safe to assume that the painting from which this print is derived, had its subject’s seal of approval. Appiani’s depiction of the First Consul is as a dashing young general, resplendent in his red velvet and gold brocade uniform. Alert and resolute, he looks to the left, as if his attention has been caught by something in his line of view. This characterises Napoleon as a quick-thinking , tactical military genius, whose power and precision on the battlefield is evoked by the stylised thunderbolt motifs on his sword strap: these are of a type that often feature in classical representations of the god, Jupiter. A small tricolour cockade tucked into his hatband acts as a reminder that, as First Consul, Napoleon upheld and extended the legacy of the French Revolution and suggests that he will strike down the enemies of the Republic.

The First Consul’s portrait is set into a trompe l’oeil marble surround. Note the way that the artist has tried to suggest its three-dimensionality through the use of shadow on the inside edge of the frame. It is as if we were looking through a real marble frame into a different space, occupied by Napoleon. The print, which is of a high quality and very sensitively coloured by hand, would have found an eager audience. During the Consulat, Napoleon was at the height of his popularity and there would have been a considerable demand for depictions of him, particularly in his most popular guise as military hero. Its high quality however, would have limited its distribution to those with at least a moderate income.

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