The development of shooting societies in central Europe from the end of the 18th century saw the creation of painted targets destined for sporting competitions. Recently brought to light by the exhibition The Target: Croatian Painted Targets and Contemporary Art (Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, 20 December 2012 -21 March 2013), this tradition is carried on today in Croatia, Austria and the South of Germany. The varying iconography of the targets includes political subject matter alongside hunting scenes. The former served as propaganda for certain events, either local, such as the visit of a monarch.
This particular example depicts the preliminaries of negotiations at Leoben, which paved the way for the treaty of Campo-Formio. Standing at the centre, two generals hold the document which resulted from the negotiations. The painter, who may have been inspired by prints, has depicted the figures with great attention to detail. To the left, in a general’s uniform of the French army is Napoleon Bonaparte, acting (without a warrant however) on behalf of the Directory. On the opposite side can be seen two Austrian officers in white jackets with red breeches: Heinrich Johann, count of Bellegarde, Feldmarschall-Lieutenant and Maximilian Friedrich, count of Merveldt, who had been promoted to Major General. One also notices the presence of Marzio Mastrilli, Marquis de Gallo, in civilian clothing; he was the ambassador of the Kingdom of Naples at Vienna who was close to the chancellor, Thugut.
To ‘perfect’ the scene of such beautiful unity, Bonaparte exclaims a diplomatic ‘long live the Emperor’ whilst his interlocutor fittingly, and in French, replies “long live the French Republic”. Lifting their hats, the two other Austrian negotiators resound the general sentiment of “long live peace”.
This representation of the event on a target commissioned by the city of Schwäbisch-Hall testifies to the impact of the news of this peace in Europe. In 1806, after the victory over Austria, Napoleon remembered the episode and ordered a painting of the subject from Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, the draft version of which is now conserved at Versailles (MV 1493).
Emilie Robbe, May 2013 (tr. AM)
This object was on display as part of the exhibition at the Musée de l’Armée in Paris, Napoléon et l’Europe, from 27 March 2013 to 14 July 2013.