Napoleon: A Politician, A General, An Emperor

Napoleon Bonaparte was an extraordinary individual capable of remarkable things. Through political maneuvering coupled with military strength and genius, Napoleon was able to conquer and assimilate the majority of Europe under France or as satellite states. With Napoleon as Emperor, it was only natural that he would be watched by the world, and it was through portraits with which he was expressed. It is through these portraits that one is able to see the views with which people held him; as a politician, an emperor, or as a defeated man. Through the years many changes and influences can be seen, especially during Napoleon’s reign as well as the years following his death. The reasoning behind the imagery can be seen to be a method which was used in order to either promote his status as the Emperor of France and greater Europe, or as a vanquished foe who during his life was not the grand being which he was made out to be. The capabilities and opportunities which art offered can be expressed by Napoleon himself who stated, “Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours.”; “A good sketch is better than a long speech.”

The first image to be seen is that of Napoleon in his mid-30s as the Premier Consul of France, one year prior to being crowned as Emperor. As one can see, Napoleon is portrayed as a youthful man, full of life and with a determined look and many aspirations for the future of his nation.
Painted in the early 19th century, possibly as early as 1801-1805, this portrait of Napoleon astride his steed as he crossed the alps has become a famous depiction. Painted during his lifetime as he was steadily gaining increasing power, Napoleon as a conqueror crossing the alps was iconic for the emperor to the point that five copies of it was made in the above listed span.
To further the impact that imagery depicting Napoleon had on the European world, one can view this image of the Russian Prince, Boris Yusupov, which was commissioned within the immediate years following Napoleon's portrait was made. It can be seen, even with the extension of the right arm and the rough terrain which he rode on, despite never having been to the place depicted, are reminiscent of Napoleon's imagery.
This Image is a small portion of a grand work of art depicting the coronation of the Emperor and Empress. One must take note, however, that Napoleon is already crowned by this point. This can also be seen in the following artwork, as well as most artwork of him, where this is none depicted to be of greater status than he is.
Another such image where the Emperor stands above all those around him, adorned with flowing robes and holding a golden scepter to display his royalty.
This imagery of King Fernando (King Ferdinand) VII, demonstrates the style which was typical of the period, showing that despite Napoleon's war which he waged, he was still portrayed in a way which placed him as equally viewed as the rest of the monarchs of the time.
While Napoleon was a politician as well as a monarch, he must also be remembered that he was the leader of the army and often traveled to the battlefields himself.
This imagery is of Napoleon as an officer. As is typical of the time, Napoleon is viewed as a tall, imposing figure with a sword near by to represent his military prowess.
This image of the 2nd Duke of San Carlos, José Miguel Vargas Carvajal and Manrique de Lara. As seen with Napoleon, it shows a tall forward striding individual with a sword at his side, making the individual to appear elegant and noble.
Quite the contrary to the former portrait depicting Napoleon heroically crossing the alps, this image, painted many years after his death, shows Napoleon in a much more depressing light, where he is cold and weighed down by the journey at hand, even so far as to have a guide at his side.
This final image is to show conclusively how Napoleon has come to be known now. An individual who was shorter and stockier than most people, and was often seen with a downcast look on his face. This is in contrast to the heroic imagery which was present during his lifetime.
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