Courting the Idéologues
Shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Campo Formio, médailleur Benjamin Duvivier struck a medal honoring Bonaparte's recent successes. 1 The face of this work displays a portrait of the general; the reverse features an image of a mounted Bonaparte, holding an olive branch in his right hand. 2 Before the "hero of Italy," allegories of Prudence and Valor lead his horse while an allegory of Victory follows, holding in her right hand a laurel crown, which she has extended over the figure of the general. It is what Victory holds in her left hand, however, that reveals much about the public's perception of Bonaparte: Victory holds a statue of Apollo Belvedere and a collection of manuscripts, representing all the paintings, statues, and scientific specimens collected under the aegis of Napoleon and sent to Paris as the spoils of war. 3 This image is indicative of the public perception that Bonaparte was much more than simply the most successful military leader of the Revolution. In this one image, one sees brought together many of the themes that Bonaparte stressed in his various propaganda efforts: Bonaparte, triumphant in war; Bonaparte, the giver of peace; and Bonaparte, the intellectual and patron of the arts.
As with his masterful manipulation of the print media, Bonaparte also realized the potential propagandistic value of the visual arts and of associating himself with the intellectual elites. Early in his career, for example, he fostered relationships with several leading scholars and with artists who promoted his reputation, not only as a victorious general but also as a man of culture and intellect. This image-making process proved key to Bonaparte's future political successes and was particularly important in his ability to win over the leading intellectuals and influential political thinkers of France known as the Idéologues.
The Idéologues and the Directory
This group of thinkers included such luminaries as the Comte de Tracy, Pierre Jean George Cabanis, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, the Marquis de Condorcet, and the Comte de Volney, who saw themselves as the successors of the Enlightenment philosophes. They sought to create the type of society envisioned by their predecessors by securing the goals of the Revolution of 1789. Their crowning achievement was realized in 1795 with the creation of the National Institute, combining a new Class of Moral and Political Science with the revolutionized vestiges of the former royal academies of art and the sciences. Through this institution, they hoped to influence the establishment of a rational, honest government in order to complete the reforms initiated by the Revolution. Although they initially supported the Directory, they tired of its reputation for corruption and profiteering. 4 As their disillusionment with the Directory grew, they increasingly began to see the hero of Italy as the potential key to the completion of their plans. 5 Their newspapers, notably La Decade Philosophique and the Journal de Paris, lauded the military and diplomatic accomplishments of the young general, and they celebrated his harvest of masterpieces for the benefit of the Muséum Centrale des Arts, a policy the Idéologues readily endorsed. This combination of a willingness to see in Bonaparte what they desired to see, coupled with Bonaparte's own skill at portraying himself in the most favorable light and as someone whose ideals closely paralleled their own, cemented a relationship that would ultimately assist Napoleon's coming to power in November 1799.
Bonaparte and the Confiscation of Italian Art
The confiscation of artwork by French armies did not originate with Napoleon Bonaparte, but was already an established practice well before Bonaparte was named general-in-chief of the Army of Italy in 1796. As Wilhelm Treue, Cecil Gould, and a host of other historians have noted, this practice was first systematized by the Convention during the 1794 French campaign in Belgium; the Directory (and Bonaparte) merely followed established practices. 6 Not only was some of the captured art to be sold to make war pay for itself, but the French Revolutionaries also systematically acquired art to be displayed for public consumption in Paris and around France. According to the Idéologues, once placed in museums rather than hidden away in private collections, the artwork would be used to help teach the French population the values of the new Republic. 7 At a minimum, such a public display would demonstrate the cultural superiority of republican France over the monarchies of Europe.
Early during the Italian campaign, the Directors informed Napoleon that "the time had come when the reign of the beaux-arts should pass to France in order to affirm and embellish its liberty," an idea in perfect keeping with the ideals of the Idéologues. 8 The subsequent behavior of the young general ensured that the wishes of the French government would be fulfilled, and on an unprecedented scale. Between 1796 and 1797, over two hundred paintings alone were collected and sent to Paris, including works by Raphaël, da Vinci, Correggio, and Barbieri (dit le Guerchin). 9 Statues, objets d'art, manuscripts, and scientific samples added to the treasure convoys that made their ways north to Paris. While most of the items selected were seized under the aegis of the artists and savants who composed the Commission pour la recherche des objets de Science et d'Art, Bonaparte himself played an important (and very visible) role in transporting Italian art to Paris, especially in the opening months of the campaign. Perhaps the most important role fulfilled by the young general was in the wording of his various treaties with the governments conquered or neutralized by his Army of Italy.
Italian Treaties and the Arts
Among his conditions for suspending hostilities with the Duke of Parma, for example, Bonaparte included an article specifically on the arts: "The Duke will relinquish twenty paintings, chosen by the general-in-chief, from among those currently residing in the duchy." 10 Such a demand should come as no surprise, given the French government's policies toward the arts. What is perhaps surprising is the personal interest Napoleon took in the matter. The stipulation regarding the Duke's art collection was premeditated. Three days before the treaty was signed, Bonaparte wrote to Guillaume-Charles Faypoult, the French plenipotentiary in Genoa, requesting information on the Dukes of Parma, Plaisance, and Modena. Of paramount importance, the general stressed, was a "note of the paintings, statues, collections, and curiosities to be found in Milan, Parma, Plaisance, Modena and Bologna." 11
Even earlier, Bonaparte apparently had considered but rejected the idea of including an article on the transfer of artwork in a treaty. In a conversation with the Piedmontese representative following the signing of the Treaty of Cherasco (28 April 1796), the general revealed that he
The idea apparently lost its novelty several weeks later when drafting the terms of the treaty with the Duke of Parma. From this point forward, future treaties written during the Italian campaign typically contained specific articles designating not only the number and types of objects to be surrendered to the French, but in some cases even specific works of art, manuscripts, and scientific samples.
Perhaps the most famous of these treaties is the armistice concluded between the French Republic and the Papacy on 23 June 1796. In addition to the pope's denying the use of ports to the enemies of France, ceding control over key territories and fortifications to the Army of Italy, and the granting of passage to French troops throughout the Papal States, Bonaparte included in Article 8 of this treaty a demand for:
Later, in the secret articles of Bonaparte's conditions for the 16 May 1797 armistice with Venice, he included provisions for the confiscation of another 20 works of art and 500 manuscripts, "to be selected by the general-in-chief." 14 These transfers of artistic masterpieces and manuscripts were perhaps the most anticipated and celebrated of the entire Revolutionary era, particularly those originating in Rome. Such activities were also particularly praised by the Idéologues. Their newspapers, La Décade Philosophique and the Journal de Paris, carried articles on the debate over the transfer of artworks from Italy, detailed the journey of the artwork and manuscripts from Rome to Paris, and lauded the triumphant general for his role in the process. In one sense this praise was not surprising, considering that one of the founders of the former newspaper, Pierre-Louis Ginguené, was also the Director of Public Instruction and thus oversaw all national libraries and museums, which were the primary recipients of all Bonaparte's artistic conquests. 15
Bonaparte's Role in the Confiscation of the Arts
It was not just that Bonaparte became associated de facto with the transfer of art from Italy to Paris; his personal involvement in the selection of the art and his skill in prolonging the media coverage of his military accomplishments and artistic levies reinforced the connections between Napoleon Bonaparte and the arts. This was particularly true during the opening months of the campaign following the first few treaties with Italian powers. Among the first of Bonaparte's dispatches to allude to his connection with the arts was his 6 May 1796 letter to the Directory. He closes his summary of events with a request for "three or four known artists" as a prelude to establishing the Commission pour la recherche des objets de Science et d'Art which would help choose works of art to be transported to Paris. 16 This letter was followed several days later by another to Lazare Carnot, announcing that he was sending the government "twenty paintings by premier artists, including Correggio and Michelangelo," referencing the paintings mentioned in his armistice with the Duke of Parma. 17
With the long-anticipated treaty with the pope and its stipulation for additional artwork and manuscripts, even though this treaty stipulated that the choices would be determined by the commissioners, Bonaparte became ever more closely associated with the artistic conquest of Italy. 21 And because of the volume of materials removed from Rome-requiring no less than three convoys-each shipment meant yet another opportunity to reemphasize the connection between Bonaparte and the arts. On 2 July 1796, for example, Bonaparte informed the Directory of the commission's work and of the departure of an 80-wagon convoy for Paris, containing the 110 works of art thus far collected. 22 Frequently, such letters were supplemented in the press by letters from the commissioners themselves, describing the nature of their work and the painstaking efforts made to ensure the safety of the art and artifacts garnered from Italy. 23 In fact, from late summer through the early fall of 1796, rarely did a week pass without some news appearing in the pages of La Décade Philosophique, Le Moniteur, or other Parisian newspapers regarding the status of the art acquisitions. With each appearance, whether written by Bonaparte or by others, the levies of art became associated with the military triumphs of Napoleon. As the campaign wound down following the fall of Mantua in February 1797, Bonaparte was able to report to the Directory that:
By September 1797, the commission had completed its task, and Bonaparte commended its services to the Directory:
Much the same could have been said of Bonaparte himself, as his other propagandistic endeavors attempted to prove. By reporting on the activities of the commission, by participating in the selection of the various paintings and works of art, and by making it known that he was participating, Bonaparte succeeded in fostering an image of himself as a man of great cultural sensitivity and as a patron of the arts.
Art Confiscations and the Press
As early as April 1796, La Décade Philosophique ran a series of articles by F. Pomereul discussing the influence of Italian art on contemporary artists. 27 While not necessarily inspired by Bonaparte's actions, it does convey the anticipation of the art levies that were soon to follow. As the Italian campaign intensified, the editors increased their coverage of Napoleon Bonaparte's activities and, where possible, of his association with the arts. Several weeks later, La Décade Philosophique published the terms of Bonaparte's treaty with the pope, which designated one hundred works of art, including the selected statues from the Capitol. 28 Over the next year and a half, it was rare for a month to go by without at least some mention of the artistic conquests of the Army of Italy; letters from the commissioners and dispatches from Napoleon listed the great works of art selected by both the general and the commission. Articles frequently detailed the painstaking efforts of the commissioners to safely transport the masterworks to Paris, and updates traced the progress of the convoys and noted their arrival. 29 Still other articles provided a forum for debate on the propriety of removing the artworks and manuscripts to Paris at all. 30
The Triumphal Entry of the Arts into Paris
Although the convoy arrived on 15 July 1798, too late to be part of the Bastille Day festivities, the government decided to organize a fête to coincide with the anniversary of Robespierre's fall. As Marie-Louis Blumer has argued, the idea of a celebratory entry of the arts had been discussed for at least a year, not only by government ministers, but also by members of the Commission pour la recherche des objets de Science et d'Art themselves. One of the most revealing elements of this discussion appears in a 21 July 1797 letter from Commissioner André Thouin to Napoleon Bonaparte in which he suggested that each clearly identified wagon should enter Paris beneath a banner reading "Monument of the victories of the Army of Italy." 34 Thouin also argued for the moral impact of the art, as it would teach "the French people a grand and sublime truth" that the arts and sciences were the crowning achievements of victory and of liberty. 35 These ideas were echoed in the Directory's planning for the 9 thermidor (27 July 1798) celebration.
The procession of art-laden wagons entered Paris at the Port de l'Hôpital (the present-day Quai d'Austerlitz) and made its way along streets decorated with flags and other trophies captured in Italy, first to the Natural History Museum and finally to the Champs de Mars for the official reception by the members of the Executive Directory. 36 Each of the commissioners present received a medal (designed by François Andrieux, a member of the Institute) acknowledging their efforts. 37 The celebration of the captured artwork continued over the next four days, culminating on 31 July with the official reception of art at the Louvre beneath banners which commemorated the role of the army in securing the masterpieces for the glory of the Republic and in ensuring their continued residence in a land of free men. According to contemporary reports, this final celebration lasted into the early hours of the morning. Contemporary popular vaudevilles pronounced that "Rome is no longer in Rome/it is all in Paris." 38 Also of interest is that among the decorations for this gala event were sixteen pyramids, no doubt a subtle reference to General Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt, which had departed France months earlier. 39
The Association of Bonaparte with the Arts
In addition to the ongoing press coverage and triumphal entry of the plundered artworks, poems and other pieces paid homage to the person who ultimately made the enrichment of the Muséum Central possible. On 18 June 1796, as the Idéologues and others awaited news from Italy, Th. Desourges referred to Bonaparte's anticipated conquest of Rome (and its artworks) in his poem, "Fragments of an Essay on Italy": "... The Capitol awaits your liberating arms/There young warrior, our most beautiful victory...." 40 Several months later, F. O. Denesle's poem, "Sur la paix," proclaimed, "The liberator of the Lombards,/the conqueror of Italy,/the friend of peace and of the arts:/the people sing your glory...." 41 As the campaign in Italy drew to a close and peace negotiations began, the editors of the Journal de Paris published a poem by P. J. Audouin, which also made connections between Bonaparte and the fine arts:
To Audouin and the editors of the Journal de Paris, Bonaparte's crowning achievement was the transfer of arts, ranking even higher than his military exploits. Several weeks later, the editors of La Décade Philosophique announced the title of the winning poem from a contest in the department of Yonne: "La conquête faite par l'armée d'Italie des grands monumens de peinture et de sculpture anciens et modernes," demonstrating the widespread interest in the transfer of Italian art and of Bonaparte's role in that transfer. 43 Later, following the triumphal entry of these artworks into Paris, J. Lavallée wrote his eleven page "Poëme sur les tableaux dont l'armée d'Italie a enrichi le museum, et sur l'utilité morale de la peinture" ["Poem on the Paintings with which the Army of Italy Has Enriched the Museum, and on the Moral Utility of Painting"], which argued that, among other things, the various pieces of art had suffered morally because of their monarchical patrons, but that under the Republic the arts would achieve their true glory. 44
Bonaparte and the Savants
Napoleon Bonaparte did not only ingratiate himself with the Idéologues through the confiscation of Italian artwork. The general's expressed attitudes concerning the importance of knowledge and learning and his relationships with various Italian and French savants benefited his rapport with the Idéologues as well. During the course of the Italian campaign, Bonaparte struck up life-long friendships with several key members of the Commission pour la recherche des objets de Science et d'Art and publicly fostered relationships with still others, with the press reprinting selected pieces of the resulting correspondence. All of this further cemented the association of the general with the intellectual elite of Europe.
But these relationships and academic interests were not passing fancies. On at least one occasion during the campaign in Italy, Bonaparte expressed a desire to find time to do the work necessary to "merit the honor of being part of the Institute." 46 The future Duchess of Abrantès echoed this sentiment in her memoirs, noting a sometimes-overlooked motivation for Bonaparte's Egyptian campaign: "Jealous of all glory, [Bonaparte] wanted to surround himself with the brilliance of the arts and sciences. He wanted to make a contribution to the Institute." On another occasion, the general expressed his sympathies with the sciences in a private letter:
Such a boast is not beyond the realm of reason. During his time at the École Militaire, Napoleon was acknowledged as "the strongest mathematician in the school," and his general intelligence was considered noteworthy. 48 As général-en-chef of the Army of Italy, Bonaparte had the opportunity to develop these inclinations. Not only did he have regular contact with members of the Commission, but he actively sought out relationships with leading Italian scientists and scholars as well. Bonaparte achieved this goal partly by impressing these savants with his own understanding of science and mathematics and partly with flattery. 49
Bonaparte and Italian Men of Letters
One of the first instances of the latter can be seen in Bonaparte's 24 May 1796 letter to the astronomer, Oriani:
This letter was intended, then, not only for Oriani, but for all the artists and savants of Lombardy. The audience of this letter, however, extended far beyond the territory of northern Italy; it was reprinted in various Parisian newspapers, displaying to the French Bonaparte's sympathies with the arts and sciences. 51 On the same day Bonaparte wrote to Oriani, he also wrote a letter to the Municipalities of Milan and Pavia, expressing similar sentiments and encouraging the "celebrated University of Pavia" to resume its normal classes. 52
This expression of solidarity with artists and intellectuals, however, was not limited to this single occasion. Bonaparte followed up on his offers, meeting with Oriani in Milan and by making the acquaintance of the Abbé Mascheroni, a geometrician at the University of Padua and creator of a new branch of mathematics, "geometry of the compass." In fact, following his election to the National Institute in December 1797, Bonaparte himself presented Mascheroni's ideas and posed a mathematical problem based on those ideas that would not be solved until 1909! 53 In December 1796, Bonaparte replied to a letter from the director of the observatory in Milan, Citizen Lalande, saying that, "of all the sciences, astronomy was the most useful to reason and to commerce," and again expressing his willingness to assist the director's scientific endeavors. 54 The two would continue to exchange letters throughout the Italian campaign, and through Lalande Napoleon gained introductions to other scientists, including several astronomers in Verona. 55
When war disrupted the activities of these scientists, Bonaparte made good on his promise to assist scholars. In a 6 July 1797 letter to Antonio Garruchio, an astronomer in Verona, Bonaparte not only agreed to reimburse the scientist for the losses he had suffered in a recent uprising, but ordered that Garruchio be given an additional sum of money to create the "Italian Society of Verona" to promote the study of science. 56 Napoleon continued to support and to expand this organization until his departure for Rastadt and Paris in November 1797. 57
In addition to these Italian savants, Napoleon Bonaparte also cultivated relationships with a number of leading French men of letters. The primary way the general was able to achieve this was through his association with the Commission pour la recherche des objets de Science et d'Art. Not only did he maintain his connections with various members while they executed their duties, but the nature of their work also attracted the attention of those in Paris who had professional or artistic interests in the manuscripts, scientific specimens, and artwork that they were selecting for removal to France. One such group was the inspectors of the Conservatory of Music, who encouraged Bonaparte not to forget musical manuscripts as the commission went about its work. In his reply, Bonaparte assured the inspectors that he had not forgotten their concerns and then proceeded to flatter them with how important music was to him. "Of all the beaux-arts," wrote Bonaparte, "music is that which has the greatest influence on the passions and which the legislature should encourage more." 58
Bonaparte and the Members of the Commission
Even more important than the occasional opportunity to correspond with men of letters in France, Bonaparte enjoyed the company of those savants who made up the Commission itself. Among these intellectuals, Bonaparte's most important and lasting relationships were with Gaspard Monge, a geometrician; Pierre-Simon Laplace, a mathematician who had been Napoleon's professor at the École Militaire; and Claude-Louis Berthollet, a chemist. Like Bonaparte, they were men of incredible mental energy and competence (a trait greatly admired by the general). When time allowed during the Italian campaign, Bonaparte would join them in discussions of scientific and mathematic principles.
General-in-Chief and Member of the Institute
Following the close of the campaign, in Italy and aided by the relationships and the public image Bonaparte had deliberately fostered during the course of that campaign, the young general was about to achieve one of his goals, one that would also serve to ingratiate himself with the politically influential Idéologues. In the months prior to the December session of the Institute, the French press (and especially the editors of La Décade Philosophique) speculated about the possibility of General Bonaparte becoming one of the Institute's new members. 60 On 26 December 1797, Bonaparte took his seat in the National Institute of France. According to La Décade Philosophique, "the public session of the Institute was very crowded and full of excitement and great curiosity. The hero of the continent, Bonaparte, came to be associated with this body of savants." 61 In his brief inaugural speech, Bonaparte echoed the sentiments he had expressed earlier in his letter to the astronomer Oriani, seeming to confirm his sympathy with the ideals of the Idéologues: "True conquests, the only ones made without regret," he said, "are those that one makes over ignorance. The most honorable occupation, and the most useful for nations, is to contribute to the extension of humane ideas...." 62 With his election to the Institute, Napoleon Bonaparte galvanized his relationship with the Idéologues and reinforced his broader public persona as a sort of eighteenth-century Renaissance man, the image that was perfectly captured in Duvivier's medal. In the months ahead, Bonaparte would continue to develop his connections with scientists and scholars through the founding of the Institute of Egypt and its publication, La Décade Égyptienne. And when the opportunity came in November 1799 for Bonaparte to assume a greater political role, with his participation in the coup d'état of 18-19 brumaire, it was, at least in part, this image that made possible the fruition of his political ambitions.
Bonaparte and the Recruitment of Artists
Bonaparte also made use of artists to increase his popularity and further develop his public image. As early as April 1796, for example, the general commissioned a Genoese artist to produce his likeness as an engraved portrait for popular distribution. With this modest commission, Napoleon began his series of relationships with many of the leading artists and engravers of France and Italy. Long before the close of the first Italian campaign, the general's image and visual representations of his victories would become the most popular subjects for engravings and among the more popular subjects for the art salons of Paris.
In a 13 May 1796 letter to Citizen Guillaume-Charles Faypoult, Bonaparte thanked the plenipotentiary for a set of engravings he had sent to the general, "which were received with great pleasure by the army." Napoleon sent the sum of 25 louis to the artist, with a commission to produce another engraving "of the astonishing crossing of the bridge at Lodi." 63 Already Bonaparte understood how art might be used to enhance one's image. As Charles-Otto Zieseniss notes in his Napoléon et les peintres de son temps, Bonaparte's time in Milan and in its palaces, surrounded by artwork, music, scholars, and artists profoundly affected him. And while he would never become a connoisseur of art, this experience did give Napoleon a deeper understanding of art's potential political impact. 64
Napoleon Bonaparte did not attract the services only of established artists like Appiani; one of the most important relationships that the general deliberately fostered was with the young expatriate French artist, Antoine-Jean Gros.
Through a mutual friend, Guillaume-Charles Faypoult, Gros obtained a meeting with Josephine "for the sole desire of making a portrait of the general." 68 He showed Madame Bonaparte a sample of his work and offered to paint her husband's portrait. Seeing his talent, she quickly agreed to Gros's proposal, and when they arrived in Milan, Josephine not only introduced the young artist to Napoleon and arranged for a sitting, but she encouraged her husband to offer Gros accommodations in the Palazzo Serbelloni, Napoleon's Milan residence. 69 According to Gros's biographer Delestre, "Josephine was like a guardian angel for Gros; she never let an occasion escape to assist and to encourage the artist." 70
In this painting lay the artistic cornerstone of the Napoleonic myth. Gros portrayed Bonaparte exhorting his men to follow him across the crucial bridge, which, the painting implies, leads to his victory over the Austrians. Once before, at Lodi, General Bonaparte had exposed himself to enemy fire while rallying his troops to cross a hotly contested bridge.
To be sure, although Bonaparte's attempt to rally his exhausted soldiers in the face of withering enemy fire was not the decisive moment of the battle (that honor belonged to General Masséna's flanking maneuver), it was the most dramatic moment. A battle won by a maneuver that made the enemy position untenable does not capture one's imagination the way selfless heroism and leading by example would. 72 And it was drama above all else that both Napoleon Bonaparte and Antoine-Jean Gros sought in this painting. For Bonaparte, the image of leading by heroic example perfectly matched the public image he had been fostering since the beginning of the campaign. For Gros, the dramatic nature of the painting allowed him to transform the art of portraiture.
Although Gros drew on an existing tradition of military portraiture, his subtle innovations changed the way people would see such paintings in the future. Bonaparte is depicted in three-quarters length, holding a sword in his right hand and a flag in his left hand; the flag was Josephine's idea. 73 Gros's use of color and line-especially in the general's hair and in the drapery of the flag-convey a sense of movement, a characteristic more associated with the style of the Romantics than with the style perfected by his mentor, Jacques-Louis David. Unlike traditional military portraits, however, the subject does not face the audience, but rather glances back toward his troops, seemingly attempting to will them to emulate his example. Gros also placed his subject in the center of the action, whereas in earlier paintings in the genre the battle typically raged in the background. 74 Gros's background, in fact, is hazy and indistinct-it is Bonaparte and his heroism that become the sole focus of one's attention.
Both patron and painter were pleased with the result. According to one of the general's aides-de-camp, it was "an amazing likeness of Bonaparte as he was at the time." 75 Napoleon Bonaparte offered Gros 250 louis to have engravings of the portrait made. These proved to be incredibly popular, increasing the fame of both the general and the artist. Gros's image of Bonaparte, notes Armand Dayot, also became the model for many other images of the future emperor, from the contemporary medal by Luigi Manfredini to the satirical cartoons by Gillray and Cruikshank to the Romantic-era medal by David d'Angers. 76 Soon after completing his portrait of Bonaparte, Gros also received a commission from General Alexandre Berthier, Napoleon's chief of staff, to paint a family portrait of him, his wife, and his sister-in-law. 77 That portrait was well received in the Salon of 1798, but, interestingly, Gros choose not to publicly display his Bonaparte at the Bridge of Arcole until the Salon of 1801. 78
Bonaparte did not give the artist time to rest before assigning him a new task. In January 1797, Bonaparte named Antoine-Jean Gros to the Commission pour la recherche des objets de Science et d'Art, and later instructed that the artist receive a remuneration of 250 livres per month. Gros's initial reaction was surprise: he was not a well-known artist at the time, and serving on the commission meant he was joining the company of established artists, like Jean-Baptiste Wicar, and scholars, like Gaspard Monge, Pierre-Simon Laplace, and Claude-Louis Berthollet. 79 His surprise quickly turned to delight, however, as Gros was finally able to visit Rome, something he had not been able to afford previously. Only now was he able to see the city's vast stores of art treasures, including the Laocoön group and the Apollo Belvedere. When the work of the commission concluded during the summer of 1797, Gros returned to Milan and continued his painting, which included, among other works, a second portrait of Berthier (and one of his mistress). 80
Andrea Appiani and Antoine-Jean Gros, however, were not the only artists in Italy whose talents Napoleon Bonaparte tried to co-opt for his propaganda campaign.
Later that year, Bonaparte offered Canova a commission to carve a stele relief portrait of Napoleon for the city of Padua, but the sculptor resisted Bonaparte's offer. 82 Not only was he outraged by Bonaparte's confiscations of Italian art and by the general's high-handed treatment of Venice in the Treaty of Campo Formio, but the artist also found himself trapped in Rome by a French siege in December 1797. Following the city's fall, Canova then became the victim of a pro-French republican mob, which invaded his studio in an attempt to destroy his current project, the statue Ferdinand of Naples. Later French diplomatic and military actions further increased his disdain for the French Republic and for its most celebrated general. 83 In fact, most of the sculptor's contemporary pieces can be seen as distinctly pro-Italian and anti-French. 84 The sole exceptions to this trend are the two works resulting from Count Sommariva's commission to Canova to create a full-length statue of the then-First Consul, Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker (eventually completed in 1812) and the accompanying earlier study, a bust entitled Napoleon as First Consul (1802). 85
Having failed to enlist the support of the era's most celebrated sculptor, Napoleon Bonaparte proved much more successful in recruiting to his cause the most celebrated French painter of the day, Jacques-Louis David.
The Popularization of Bonaparte's Image
As Bonaparte's fame in France increased during the course of his Italian campaign, paintings, engravings, and statues of the general and of his army began to appear in the Salons of Paris. 92 Few (if any) of these works were commissioned by Bonaparte, but they served to maintain Bonaparte's association with high art, and they provide an indication of the general's incredible popularity.
A host of colporteurs and lesser artists also tried to turn a profit from thousands of engravings produced for the mass audience.
By 1797, advertisements for engravings appeared not only in Le Moniteur, but also in virtually every other Parisian newspaper. The Clef du Cabinet, for example, offered a "distinguished" portrait of Bonaparte with the inscription: "A spirit vast and profound, a soldier prudent and brave/He gave Europe freedom and victory [over] slavery." 96 In March, the same newspaper advertised a colored engraving of General Bonaparte by P. M. Alix (after a painting by Andrea Appiani) for eight livres, proclaiming that, "This portrait appears to us perfectly executed and one of the most life-like we have seen." 97 The Journal de Paris called attention to Schiavonetti's engraving of a portrait of Bonaparte by Coscia for five livres, and to another after a portrait by Carle Vernet for only three livres. 98 The Journal des Hommes Libres also advertised engravings of the héros italique. In April 1798, it noted an engraved portrait of Bonaparte by Emira Marceau Sergent for 24 livres. Later, the paper called attention to an engraving by Citizen Hennequin, entitled "La Liberté d'Italie" for twelve livres, noting that, "the extremely life-like portrait of Bonaparte adds much to this composition." 99
Perhaps the most extraordinary offer for Napoleon's portrait appeared in the 12 February 1799 issue of the Clef du Cabinet. The primary purpose of this advertisement was to announce the sale of Tableaux historiques des campagnes et aux révolutions d'Italie, complete with original drawings by the military artist Carle Vernet. As an incentive to get potential readers to order this expensive work (120 francs) as quickly as possible, the publishers made an additional offer: all readers who subscribed before 1 germinal (21 March) would also receive as a bonus an introduction to Tableaux historiques that contained a frontispiece portrait of General Bonaparte. 100 Through such means, by the time of Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'état countless thousands of these relatively inexpensive engravings had flooded the French and Italian markets, making Bonaparte's image one of the most popular of the Revolutionary era. 101 The popularity of his likeness parallels the overwhelming popularity of the general himself.
From his initial efforts to manipulate the French press through the careful wording and timing of his dispatches, to the founding of his own newspapers, which further affected the reading public, to his use and patronage of the arts, Napoleon Bonaparte had shaped the idealized, heroic image of himself that would enable him to become the ultimate political player of the Revolutionary era. His image-making campaign, however, contained one more (and less well-known) aspect, the use of commemorative medals, which is the subject of the next chapter.
Note 1: Mark Jones, The Art of the Medal (London: British Museum Publishing Ltd., 1979), 101; and Michel Hennin, Histoire numismatique de la Révolution Française, ou description raisonnée des médailles, monnies, et autres monumens numismatique relatifs aux affairs de la France dépuis l'ouverture des États-généraux jusqu'à l'établissent du gouvernement consulaire, 2 vols. (Paris: J. S. Merlin, 1826; reprint, Maastricht: A. G. van der Dussen, 1987), I: 569; cf. Gazette nationale ou le Moniteur universal (Paris), 28 germinal, an 6 (17 April 1798). The advertisement in le Moniteur listed this medal at 6 francs for bronze and 26 francs for those made of silver. As with the newspaper subscriptions, the cost of commemorative medals was beyond the reach of most people. Certainly, however, the price for bronze medallions was affordable to many French bourgeoisie.Back.
Note 4: Jay W. Stein, "Beginnings of 'Ideology'," The South Atlantic Quarterly 55 (1956): 165-67, and Jay W. Stein, "A Scholarly Temple from National to Napoleonic," History of Education Quarterly 1 (1961): 7-8.Back.
Note 6: Wilhelm Treue, Art Plunder: The Fate of Works of Art in War and Unrest, trans. Basil Creighton (Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1961), 139-41; Cecil Gould, Trophy of Conquest: The Musée Napoléon and the Creation of the Louvre (London: Faber and Faber, 1965), 31-32; Raymond J. Maras, "Napoleon and Levies on the Arts and Sciences," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe, 1750-1850: Proceedings 17 (1987): 433; Martha L. Turner, "Art Confiscations in the French Revolution," Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History 4 (1976): 274-76; Ferdinand Boyer, "Le Général Bonaparte et la recherche des objets de science et d'art en Lombardie (1796)," Revue de l'institute Napoléon 122 (January 1972): 7-8; Ferdinand Boyer, "Quelques considerations sur les conquêtes artistiques de Napoléon," Rivista Italiana di Studi Napoleonici 7 (1968): 190; and Ferdinand Boyer, "Les Résponsibilités de Napoléon des le transfert à Paris des oeuvres d'art de l'étranger," Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 11 (October-December 1964): 242-43.Back.
Note 9: Marie-Louis Blumer, "Catalogue des Peintures Transportées d'Italie en France de 1796 à 1814" Bulletin de la Socièté de l'histoire de l'art française (1936): 256-60 and 347. In a recent paper delivered at a meeting of the Consortium on Revolutionary Europe, 1750-1850, Bette Oliver noted that in 1797 the director of the Committee of Public Instruction, Pierre-Louis Ginguené, allotted 60,000 francs from his "Extraordinary Museum Expenses" to help offset the expenses of transporting these works to Paris and another 300,000 francs for the restoration of the greatest works requiring attention. These figures represented almost a third of the funds allocated for museums, libraries, and literary depots. See Bette W. Oliver, "More than Canvas, Stone, and Paper: Pierre-Louis Ginguené, from Literary Historian to Director of Public Instruction" (paper presented at the annual meeting of the Consortium on Revolutionary Europe, 1750-1850, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 22-24 February 2002).Back.
Note 10: Napoleon Bonaparte, Correspondence de Napoléon Ier, Vol.1 (Paris: Henri Plon, 1858), 303, no. 368. Hereafter abbreviated Corr. followed the volume number, page number, and by the appropriate document number.Back.
Note 18: Corr. I: 352-53, no. 443, and Corr. I: 353-54, no. 444. As with the armistice with the Duke of Parma, Bonaparte's later treaty with Venice also stipulated that the choice of levied artwork remained that of the general-in-chief.Back.
Note 20: The 8 June 1796 (20 prairial, an 4) issue of La Décade Philosophique (Paris), for example, reprints Napoleon's armistice with the Duke of Parma; and the 2 July 1796 (14 messidor, an 4) issue of L'Historien (Paris) contained Napoleon's list of transported art.Back.
Note 23: La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 10 fructidor, an 4 (27 August 1796); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 30 fructidor, an 4 (16 September 1796); and La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 10 vendémiaire, an 5 (1 October 1796).Back.
Note 29: Amazingly, of the 227 paintings confiscated from northern Italy during the First Italian Campaign, only two were lost (including da Vinci's Head of the Virgin, taken from the Bibliothèque Ambrosienne on 24 May 1796). 110 of those works were repatriated in 1815, and 115 remained in various museums in France. See Blumer, "Catalogue des Peintures," 347.Back.
Note 30: La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 30 messidor, an 4 (18 July 1796); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 10 fructidor, an 4 (27 August 1796); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 30 fructidor, an 4 (16 September 1796); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 10 vendémiaire, an 5 (1 October 1796); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 30 brumaire, an 5 (20 November 1796); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 10 frimaire, an 5 (30 November 1796); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 20 floréal, an 5 (9 May 1797); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 30 floréal, an 5 (19 May 1797); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 30 prairial, an 5 (18 June 1797); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 20 floréal, an 5 (9 May 1797); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 20 messidor, an 5 (8 July 1797); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 30 messidor, an 5 (18 July 1797); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 20 thermidor, an 5 (7 August 1797); La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 20 fructidor, an 5 (6 September 1797); and La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 30 vendémiaire, an 6 (9 May 1797).Back.
Note 32: Notice des Pincipaux Tableaux Recueillis dans la Lombardie par les Commissions du Government Française, don't l'exposition proviso ire aura lieu dans le grand salon du Muséum, les Octidis, Noidis et Dédadis de chaques Décade, à compter du 18 pluviose, jusqu'au 30 prairial, an VI (Paris: Imprimerie des Sciences et Arts, an 6).Back.
Note 34: Marie-Louis Blumer, "La commission," 237-38. "See also Objets venus d'Italie, 6 thermidor an VI (24 juillet 1798)," volume 20, Collection Deloynes, Salle des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; and "Entrée triumphant des sciences et des arts, 9 thermidor an VI (27 juillet 1798)," volume 20, Collection Deloynes, Salle des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.Back.
Note 36: "Entrée triumphant des sciences et des arts." This part of the celebration was also captured in an engraving by Berthault entitled "Entrée triomphale des monuments des sciences et arts en France," a copy of which is in the Collection Vinck at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris.Back.
Note 37: Paul Delaroche, Henriquel Dupont, and Charles Lenormant, Médailles de la Révolution Française, depuis l'ouverture des États-généraux (5 mai 1789) jusqu'a la proclamation de l'Empire (18 mai 1804) (Paris: Bureau du Trésor de numismatique et de glyptique, 1836), 90-91.Back.
Note 39: Blumer, "La commission," 248; cf. La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 20 prairial, an 6 (8 June 1797). It is also interesting to note that P. M. Alix's engraving of Bonaparte (after Gros's famous painting) was advertised in the same issue, connecting, at least by juxtaposition, Bonaparte and the arts.Back.
Note 43: La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 30 brumaire, an 6 (20 November 1797). The title of the poem translates: "The conquest of the great monuments of ancient and modern painting and sculpture made by the Army of Italy."Back.
Note 44: J. Lavallée, Poëme sur les tableaux dont l'armée d'Italie a enrichi le museum, et sur l'utilité morale de la peinture; lu à la séance publique de la société philotechnique, le 20 floréal, an VI (Paris: Imprimerie e Charles Houel, an 6).Back.
Note 66: Jean Tulard et al., 309; Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, David e la Pittura Napoleonica (Milan: Fratelli Fabbri, 1967), 89; and Ferdinand Boyer, "Le Peintre Andrea Appiani: documents," Rivista Italiana di Studi Napoleonici 7 (1968): 134-35.Back.
Note 72: See pages 78-83 of O'Brien's "The Art of War: Antoine-Jean Gros and French Military Painting, 1795-1804" for an excellent discussion of the development and importance of the Arcole legend.Back.
Note 78: Michel Régis, Aux armes et aux arts! Les arts de la Révolution, 1789-1799 (Paris: Adam Biro, 1988), 76-77. Ironically, Charles Thévenin's painting of Augereau at Arcole was also displayed in the Salon 1798.Back.
Note 82: Christopher Johns, "Canova's Portraits of Napoleon: Mixed Genre and the Question of Nudity in Revolutionary Portraiture," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe, 1750-1850: Proceedings 20 (1990): 368-69.Back.
Note 85: Johns, 369. Ironically, the larger-than-life Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker is on display at Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington's London residence. Even in this monumental work, however, Canova managed to demonstrate his independence from Bonaparte's desires. Instead of portraying the general-become-emperor in contemporary dress, much to the dismay of his subject, the sculptor portrays Napoleon as a heroic, allegorical nude, thus "challenging the patron's agenda" (371-72).Back.
Note 87: Paul Spencer-Longhurst, "Premier Peintre de l'Empereur," The Connoisseur 193 (December 1976), 318; and Felix Markham, "Napoleon and his Painters," Apollo 80 (September 1964), 187. For further reading on David's role as "pageant-master" and propagandist of the Revolution, see David Lloyd Dowd, Pageant-Master of the Republic: Jacques-Louis David and the French Revolution (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1948).Back.
Note 88: M. E. J. Delecluze, Louis David: son école et son temps (Paris: Didier, 1855), 203. See also Spencer-Longhurst, 317. This particular portrait of Bonaparte remained unfinished. David originally wanted to show Bonaparte on the battlefield of Rivoli holding the Treaty of Campo Formio, but a busy and impatient Napoleon never returned to David's studio so that the work could be completed.Back.
Note 89: Although this canvas commemorated an actual event, few elements of the painting are true to life. For example, David wanted to show Bonaparte, sword in hand, leading his victorious army at Marengo, but Napoleon objected. The First Consul wanted "le beau idéal," not necessarily realism. "Battles are not won by the sword," Bonaparte said. "I wish to be painted tranquil on a fiery [sic] horse." Reluctantly, David agreed, depicting Bonaparte, dressed in a military uniform and a billowing red cape, riding a rearing white charger in the midst of a raging storm. In actuality, when crossing the Alps, Napoleon wore civilian clothes and rode a mule; however, the less-dramatic truth would not have produced the desired effect on the French people. See Helen Rosenau, "Inherited Myths, Unprecedented Realities: Paintings under Napoleon," Art in America 63 (March-April 1975), 49-50.Back.
Note 91: Jules David, 407-09; Verbraeken, 56; Miette, 185; and Delecluze, 242. The proposed paintings in the series were: The Coronation of Napoleon I, The Distribution of the Eagles, The Arrival of Napoleon at Notre Dame, and Napoleon's Entrance into the Hôtel de Ville. Of the four, only the first two reached completion; in 1810, the last two were canceled. See Delecluze, 242; and Spencer-Longhurst, 320.Back.
Note 92: David O'Brien, in fact, makes a case that this was one of the reasons Bonaparte was so pleased with the work of Antoine-Jean Gros. An artist of that talent, painting works inspired by the activities of the "hero of Italy," was likely to have his works exhibited in the Salons on a regular basis. This, of course, meant that Bonaparte would have yet one more way of keeping his achievements before the public. See O'Brien, 94-95.Back.
Note 93: Explication des Ouvrages de Peinture et Dessins, Sculpture, Architecture et Gravure, des Artists Vivant Exposée au Muséum Central des Arts d'après l'Arrêté du Ministre de l'Intérieur, le 1er thermidor, an VI (Volume 19, Collection Deloynes, Salle des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris), 80; and Exposition du Salon de l'an VI; ou les Tableaux en vaudevilles (Volume 19, Collection Deloynes, Salle des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris), 7-8.Back.
Note 97: Clef du Cabinet (Paris), 3 germinal, an 6 (23 March 1798). This same artist also accomplished another "perfectly executed" color engraving of General Berthier, Napoleon's indispensable chief-of-staff. See Clef du Cabinet (Paris), 19 prairial, an 6 (7 June 1798); cf. La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 10 prairial, an 6; and La Décade Philosophique (Paris), 10 prairial, an 6.Back.
Note 101: For a brief discussion of engravings in the Italian market, see Christian Marc Bosséno, "Figures et personnages de l'Iconographie politique Italienne (1789-1799)" Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française 289 (1992): 407-16.Back.