Napoleon Bonaparte, student of the Royal Military School in Brienne, aged 15 years old

Artist(s) : ROCHET Louis
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Napoleon Bonaparte, student of the Royal Military School in Brienne, aged 15 years old

Thanks to documents proving his family's nobility, Charles Bonaparte was able to send his son Napoleon Bonaparte to one of the twelve military schools created by Louis XVI, reserved for young nobles. Between May 1779 and October, 1784, the young Napoleon attended the military school in Brienne, in the Champagne region, run by the Minimes religious order. Far from home and the frequent butt of his classmates' jokes, he began to feel like a foreigner and became withdrawn and restrained. It is whilst at school in Brienne, however, that he became acquainted with French culture and developed a keen interest in the precise sciences, such as arithmetic, algebra and geometry. He was also passionately interested in geography and history, and in particular the works of Plutarch. After his exams, he was admitted to the prestigious military school in Paris.
In compliance with the Emperor's wishes expressed whilst he was on the island of St. Helena, in 1853 Napoleon III granted the town of Brienne the sum of 400,000 francs, of which 25,000 was intended to finance the erection of a statue. The municipality conferred the task of completing the statue to the sculptor Rochet.
Dressed in his school uniform, the young Bonaparte is depicted standing up, Plutarch's Parallel Lives clasped in his left hand and his right hand tucked into his vest, a pose widely used in the representations of Napoleon. A plaster model was displayed at the 1853 Salon, and the bronze statue was inaugurated in Brienne in 1859. A large number of replicas exist in plaster, marble and plated bronze; this particular example is electroplated, dates from 1879 and comes from the Imperial collection. It is highly likely that it was intended for the Princess Mathilde, cousin of Napoleon III.
Bernard Chevalier (Tr. & ed. H.D.W.)
Conservateur général du patrimoine (emeritus)

October 2009

Date :
1879 (after plaster original, 1853)
Technique :
Silver-plated galvanised bronze, produced by the Maison Christofle.
Dimensions :
H = 1.72 m
Place held :
Rueil-Malmaison, musée national des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau
Photo credit :
© RMN, Paris / Daniel Arnaudet
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