An international scholarly online history journal on First and Second Empire subjects: articles, bibliographies, book reviews, in english and in french

Delve deeper into Napoleonic history here in our section on the history of the two empires. Alongside a section for those just starting, there are many articles, images with commentary, close-ups and special dossiers for the serious Napoleonic enthusiast.

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The First Consul crossing the Alps via the Great Saint Bernard Pass

Artist: DAVID Jacques Louis (1748-1825)

Date: 1800-1801 (dated and signed, An IX)

Technique: oil on canvas

Dimensions : H. 2.59 m; W. 2.21 m

Place:Rueil-Malmaison, musée national des châteaux de Malmaison et
de Bois Préau

Subjects: Bonaparte (First Consul), Italy (campaign of)(1800), Propaganda

Key words: historical scene, general, horse, rearing horse, Alps, snow, army movements, canon, flag

Credits: RMN


Commissioned by King Charles IV of Spain for the Salon des grands capitaines of the Royal Palace in Madrid via the intermediary of his ambassador in France, Musquiz, for which he paid 24,000 Francs; Joseph Bonaparte appropriated the painting for himself in Madrid and took it with him to the USA. It was only to reappear in 1949-50 when it was bequeathed to Malmaison (near Paris) by Eugénie Bonaparte, princesse de la Moskowa, great-grand-daughter of Joseph. This version presents a dappled horse and a yellow cloak with the inscriptions, 'L. David-L'an IX' on the horse's bridle and '(HA)NNIBAL/KAROLUS MAGNUS/BONAPARTE' on the rocks in the foreground. Four variant examples exist: an autograph destined for Bonaparte, at present in Charlottenburg (Berlin) (bay-brown horse, red cloak, signed and dated An IX); another (for the most part executed by the workshop) which was in the library of the Hôtel des Invalides and at present in the Château de Versailles (near Paris) (white horse, brown legs, red cloak, no date or signature); yet another sent to the Palazzo della Repubblica in Milan, today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (white horse, brown legs, red cloak, signed and dated An X); and a final (very repainted version) taken by David to Brussels and at present in the stores of the château de Versailles (dappled horse, yellow cloak, signed); there are many copies in France, one of which is in the Minister of Defence's residence and another of which is at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Troyes, not to mention copies held abroad and the numerous reproductions in tapestry, porcelain or engraving.


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