Gloires Nationales, or National Glories: History in Épinal prints

L’imagerie d’Épinal, or how Pellerin's propaganda depicted the heroes of the Empire.

By Musée Bertrand

Napoleon the Great (19th century) by PELLERINMusée Bertrand

Napoleon I

How to begin this series of Gloires Nationales and other portraits of the Empire's protagonists, if not with a first illustration of Napoleon I ? Represented at the peak of his glory, on horseback, in a military coat in the French colors, the Emperor is decorated and recognizable thanks to his famous bicorne hat.

National Glory Napoleon (19th century) by PELLERINMusée Bertrand

The conquering Emperor

This first Gloire Nationale defines the codes that we will see in all the Gloire images to follow. The protagonist, Napoleon, is represented in the center of the image, encircled by oak leaves,...

...flanked on left and right by two columns bearing the names of his major victories, as well as the inscription "Gloire et Patrie" (Glory and Country).

At the top of the circle sits an eagle, symbol of the Empire.

Underneath the portrait of Napoleon is an illustration of the famous battle of Austerlitz.

As usual, the Pellerin print shop accompanied the print with a commentary.

Bertrand, national glory, n 25 (19th century) by PELLERINMusée Bertrand

A faithful friend

On this print we find the faithful Henri-Gatien Bertrand in his crown of oak leaves.

To show the character of the man, the event Pellerin chose to illustrate was the death of Napoleon, at St. Helena. After having followed the Emperor into exile, Bertrand is remembered as an allegory of loyalty. Almost unknown before Elbe, General Bertrand is almost always depicted on Pellerin's plates with Napoleon in his last moments.

General Drouot (19th century) by François GEORGINMusée Bertrand

This plate, which is not a Gloire Nationale, presents General Antoine Drouot in his best light, in the middle of the battlefield. It was in fact at the most famous battles, such as Wagram, Moscow, Lutzen, or Waterloo, that he showed himself in the best light, alongside the Emperor.

National Glory Murat (19th century) by François GEORGINMusée Bertrand

Napoleon's brother-in-law

Who was the famous Joachim Murat, also known as Joachim I, King of Naples? He was the brother-in-law of the Emperor himself, whom he followed in his campaigns.

An able soldier, he is shown here during the battle of Eylau, under his portrait, a battle that saw him pitted against the Russian forces. Murat is the one at the head of the charge. Unfortunately, the Battle of Eylau was truly a massacre that saw many generals fall.

National Glory Poniatowsky (19th century) by PELLERINMusée Bertrand

A Polish general

One of the Polish generals to have distinguished himself during the Napoleonic campaigns is the nephew of King Stanislaus II of Poland, Joseph Antoine Poniatowski. Prince and General of the Polish armies, he later became Marshal of the French Empire.

The scene chosen to illustrate him is also, unfortunately, the story of his last moments. While fighting the Austrians alongside Napoleon in Leipzig, he decided to cross the river Elser to flee the enemy, who wished to prevent the retreat of the French. Poniatowski drowned there with his horse on October 19, 1813, and was not found until a few days later.
He was a courageous and patriotic marshal (Napoleon had promised him he would reestablish the kingdom of Poland) who passed away that day.

National Glory Marshal Masséna (19th century) by PELLERINMusée Bertrand

L'Enfant chéri de la victoire

L’Enfant chéri de la victoire, or the "Dear Child of Victory," is the nickname Napoleon gave to Masséna after his triumph at Rivoli. Victorious in all battles, Masséna was made marshal in May 1804, after the proclamation of the Imperial regime. Nevertheless, he did not fail to oppose Napoleon's political choices, since he even went so far as to join the Bourbons during the Emperor's first abdication.

Perhaps this is why Pellerin decides to present a battle episode, under his portrait, where it is Napoleon who is in the spotlight at the Battle of Wagram.

National Glory Cambronne (19th century) by PELLERINMusée Bertrand

The word of Cambronne

A general described as brave and generous, Pierre Cambronne is remembered above all by history as one of the generals who accompanied Napoleon to Elba during his first exile. He was a significant player in the Hundred Days reconquest and is also known, in legend, for having replied to the English during the Battle of Waterloo that, “The guard dies but does not surrender!” He also reportedly replied, “Merde!" ("Shit!" or "Go to hell!) when faced with their insistence, giving rise to the euphemism "le mot de Cambronne" (the word of Cambronne).

National Glory Kléber (19th century) by PELLERINMusée Bertrand

Kléber in Egypt

Jean-Baptiste Kléber was already a seasoned soldier and general when Bonaparte asked him to join him in the Egyptian campaign. He distinguished himself there many times as well as in Alexandria and Jaffa.

Unfortunately, as Napoleon was signing a peace treaty with Egypt, Kléber marched on Cairo in order to put an end to the revolts. He was assassinated there. This is the event illustrated here by Pellerin.

National Glory Lasalle (19th century) by PELLERINMusée Bertrand

Lasalle at Wagram

While known to his soldiers as an inveterate seducer, Antoine Lasalle is also especially famous for his numerous armed deeds under the Empire. He distinguished himself there in every campaign: in Italy, Egypt, Russia, Poland, Spain, and finally in Germany and Austria. An incredible character, he lost his life at the age of 34 to a musket ball in the forehead, during the terrible battle of Wagram.

The episode Pellerin chose seems to be a scene from the Battle of Austerlitz, during which Lasalle allegedly carried enemy flags to Napoleon.

The Imperial Family (19th century) by François GEORGINMusée Bertrand

The Bonaparte Imperial Family

This print shows the main members of the Imperial family.

On the first line, we find at the head of this family Napoleon I, Emperor of France, flanked by his two successive wives, Empress Joséphine and Empress Marie-Louise.

They are followed by the Bonaparte brothers,...

...then by the Emperor's nephew, niece and adopted son.

Presented in ceremonial clothes, in medallions, the members of the imperial family almost take on a royal dimension as these portraits are similar to the official portraits of royalty.

Napoleon, His Son (19th century) by François GEORGINMusée Bertrand

Napoleon I and Napoleon II

This print features Napoleon I, Emperor of France, alongside Napoleon II, his son, King of Rome, also known as l'Aiglon (or Eaglet). During the first abdication of Bonaparte senior, he decided to name his son, then aged four, his heir and new emperor of France. Of course, it was Louis XVIII who assumed the throne, thwarting the plans of the emperor in exile.

He is shown here as an adolescent, but Napoleon II did not know his father well, as he was exiled when the son was only four or five years old.

This portrait, which also features the imperial eagle as well as a bundle of weapons, is thus only intended to serve Napoleonic propaganda, and to present the emperor's son as a legitimate heir to the throne of France. Unfortunately for him, l'Aiglon died at the age of 21 in Vienna, from a pulmonary infection.

Tomb of Napoleon II (19th century) by François GEORGINMusée Bertrand

The Tomb of Napoleon II

Napoleon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte, son of Napoleon I, passed away at the age of 21 on July 22, 1832, in Vienna. Son of a father whom he knew only through history, he died before he could claim any acts of heroism or retake the throne of France. Only his tomb remained, in Vienna, where those loyal to his father and his own mother came to pray.

The shadow of Napoleon I, who would not be able to see his son made leader of the French people as he wished, seems to be lamenting alongside the bereaved.

Credits: Story

Musée Bertrand de Châteauroux.

Kevin Guillebaud
Candice Signoret

Photos : © Musée Bertrand

Credits: All media
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