A Dejected Napoleon
In this oil painting, a dejected Napoleon I (1769–1821), sits on a chair with a gloomy expression on his face. This work is a satirical take on Paul Delaroche’s (1797–1856) Napoleon I at Fontainebleau, 31 March, 1814, a painting that forms part of the Musée de l’Armée in Paris. The current painting, like Delaroche’s, depicts the former emperor on the heels of his first abdication, shortly after Napoleon realized he no longer was in charge of directing the course of European history. Napoleon’s military successes had brought him public attention, but here, having recognized that his downfall was imminent, he sits slumped in a chair. Portrayed in his signature greatcoat, despair overwhelms the legendary figure. In contrast to representations produced earlier in the emperor’s life, which illustrated him as a powerful leader with a striking countenance, isolation and abandonment mark the present image. A laurel wreath is depicted in the top left corner of the painting; however, the emperor is not wearing this article. His conquering days are over. Napoleon took a serious interest in self-promotion and was keen on recording his triumphs for posterity, and accordingly, his sense of dejection is rendered all the more visible in this satirical portrayal. Often pictured as a diminutive, bad-tempered general by English caricaturists during his reign, his stature in defeat is here magnified by his overbearing proximity to the picture plane. Although the canvas has incurred some damage, note the cut along the left edge of the work, here is your chance to own a satiric rendition of the most caricatured figure of his time.
At this time in France, the “Draisienne” was introduced in Paris’ Luxembourg Gardens in 1818. Invented by Karl von Drais (1785–1851) the year prior, this contraption preceded the bicycle. It was a two wheeled vehicle, powered by the rider’s feet on the ground, similar to a child’s balance bike today. The contraption quickly went out of style, and was replaced by pedalled alternatives upon their invention.