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 French campaign, 1814

Artist: MEISSONIER Ernest (1815-1891)

Date: 1864

Technique: oil on canvas

Dimensions : H. 0.515 m; W. 0.765 m

Place:Paris, musée d'Orsay

Subjects: France (Campaign of), Napoleon (1769-1821)

Key words: Ney Michel, Berthier Louis Alexandre, Drouot Antoine, Gourgaud Gaspard, Flahaut de La Billarderie Auguste comte de, cavalier, maréchal, general, officer, infantry

Credits: RMN


Whilst a fruitful source of inspiration for the Romantics, the Napoleonic epic was no less influential upon Academic painters. Meissonier's work, one of the artistic highlights of the Second Empire and the Third Republic, is ample witness. Though born only a few months before Waterloo, Meissonier was greatly interested by Napoleon ("How many times I have dreamt of the emperor!" he was heard to remark) and he sketched out a plan for a ‘Napoleonic cycle' comprising five major dates: "1796", "1807", "1810", "1814" and "1815". Only "1807" and "1814" were ever finished – although he did complete two other paintings related to the cycle, namely, "1805" and "1806".
Meissonier perfectly summed up the painting here in the following words: "The Campagne de France. Heavy sky, ground churned up, staff battered, army exhausted. The emperor goes ever onwards, mounted on his white horse. It is not so much the defeat of the armies but the attitude of Napoleon I in this critical time which is important".

Exhibited at the Salon of 1864 and at the Universal Exhibition of 1867.


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