The disastrous retreat from Russia enabled the formation of a 6th anti-French coalition. Paris was under threat, yet Napoleon intervened too late to prevent its capture. He was informed of the capital's capture on March 30, 1814, at 10 p.m. and, as told by Bourienne in his Mémoires, he "headed for Fontainebleau, where he arrived at six o'clock in the morning. He didn't have the large apartments opened, but rather opted to bunk in the small apartment he was fond of. Napoleon shut himself in his offices and stayed there, alone, for the entire day of March 31."
This painting, signed by Paul Delaroche in 1840, illustrates this extract from Bourienne's accounts, which the artist copied out on a draft sheet. In it, we see Napoleon I, alone, marked by age and carrying excess weight, his body slumped in a chair, the foot of which is caught on a wall hanging. Barely dismounted from his horse, he hadn't even taken the time to remove his boots, encrusted with dirt, and his famous frock coat. He had just thrown his hat to the ground, his wallet onto a sofa, and his sword onto a pedestal table. A somber and tired face expresses both anger and disappointment.
Defeated and betrayed by most of his people, he realizes that his fall was approaching: on April 2, the downfall of the Empire was elected by vote, and the monarchy was reinstated. On April 6, Napoleon abdicated, handing over his power to his son. On April 20, he was exiled to Elba, a Mediterranean island off the western coast of Italy.
This piece, which was painted the year in which Napoleon's ashes were returned to France, was hugely successful both in France and overseas. This success was further proven by the numerous versions that arose of it.