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The execution of Emperor Maximilian

Painting, 1867, 252×305 cm

Description of the artwork «The execution of Emperor Maximilian»

Edouard Manet took a clear civil position and was an outspoken political debater. During the Franco-Prussian war, for example, he remains besieged in Paris, volunteered to protect him and in the evenings, hungry, sick and exhausted, grieved news of the deaths of friends, bored, being separated from his wife and leads a fierce debate with Edgar Degas. Converge in the result that do not forgive Zola fleeing from Paris, put up.

But it will be in 1870, when the war put an end to the reign of Napoleon III, Edouard Manet driven to a nervous breakdown. But for a few years before that discontent Manet-French government of the Emperor will break in only one tense, politically-charged painting. "The execution of Emperor Maximilian" was doomed – such a picture will not send to the Salon and even did not show on his own show. It was banned and until the death of Manet canvas saw no one, except close friends of the artist.

We can not do without history. "Execution" is a quick, saucy and very specific reaction to one of the most shameful campaigns of Napoleon III: the vain of the conquest of Mexico, political revolution, and the shameful flight of the French army from this overseas country. Napoleon wanted to crank out something like the Egyptian campaigns of his famous kinsman, and at the same time to get closer to America. The French army overthrew the local ruler of Mexico and put here to rule a puppet of Napoleon III, the Emperor Maximilian. All anything, the story is not original and not new, but only the French for a long time is not enough to maintain an army in Mexico was expensive and completely illogical. The army returned home, and the Emperor Maximilian was left to deal with the Mexicans.

When the Mexicans shot the intruder Maximilian and the French newspaper reported, Edouard Manet conceived a new picture, his only masterpiece based on a historic event. A passionate scholar of Manet and one of the best modern British art critics Waldemar Januszczak says: "In the history of modern art there are only two paintings, which with sufficient force and effect depicted the events of his time: "Guernica" Picasso and "Execution" Manet". Manet has managed not just to tell about the event and involve the viewer.

Blank gray wall in the background of Manet will build only in the third version of the film (on the first versions of sketches for firing a group of stretched a dry, laconic landscape), soldiers also used to be dressed in a sombrero quite like the Mexicans. Then the soldiers disguised in French uniforms, Manet will challenge and accused the French of complicity, and the French Emperor – with murder. That his features had to identify his contemporaries in the face of the soldier who prepares the gun for the final shot. He, Napoleon III, Maximilian killer.

But apart from the onlookers watching from behind the fence for the penalty, in the picture there is another observer, who was there and did nothing to stop it. It's you. That you cast a shadow in the bottom of the painting and quietly watching the execution of Emperor Maximilian. Every one of us.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Genre scene

Style of art: Realism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1867

Size: 252×305 cm

Artwork in selections: 27 selections

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