The coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame Cathedral on 2 December 1804

Jacques-Louis David • Painting, 1807, 621×979 cm
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About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Historical scene
Style of art: Classicism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1807
Size: 621×979 cm
Artwork in selections: 29 selections
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Description of the artwork «The coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame Cathedral on 2 December 1804»

"The coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame Cathedral on 2 December 1804" – the apotheosis propaganda painting not only in the work of classicist Jacques-Louis David, but also in all European art. Isn't it odd that the same David, who was one of the first persons of the French revolution, the other Maratand Robespierre, a member of the Convention and a signatory to the decision on the execution of king Louis XVI, after a few years would glorify self-proclaimed Emperor? When Napoleon asked one of the associates (in the past – an ardent Republican, and David), what he thought of the coronation, he replied: "Perfectly, your Majesty. It is a pity that it did not present those three hundred thousand people who put their lives to such ceremonies become impossible".

But David drowned his heart in these reflections. Solemn entry of Napoleon to Paris in 1797, shook the artist as the event is not so much political as aesthetic. The Corsican struck him, a subtle connoisseur of classical aesthetics, his Roman profile and the energy of the absolute, not subject to the slightest doubt of the government. "What is his head! – admired Napoleon David. – It is so perfect that it is worthy of comparison with the best specimens of ancient sculpture and painting!"
Napoleon, it should be noted, did not meet the artist in return. He believed that the past "painter of the revolution" gives reason to doubt the sincerity of his loyal instincts. But Bonaparte has always been highly valued professionals (it largely determined his success) and, therefore, to capture for posterity the celebration of his "wedding crown and anointing of the Kingdom," he instructed it to David.

Almost three years it took the artist to complete this large-scale national anthem of Imperial greatness. The organizers of the coronation ceremony did a good job: such pomp France could not remember them in the days of the monarchy. A tuple of gold carriages with the members of the nobility, military generals, clergy, headed by Pope Pius VII, whom Napoleon decided to invite to the celebration, providing themselves with religious legitimacy, this literally brilliant cortege by slowly and solemnly moved from the Palace to Notre Dame Cathedral, and tens of thousands of Parisians thronged the street to gawk at the grandiose spectacle.

The climax of the coronation was the time when Dad was going to be the Emperor's gold Laurel wreath, Napoleon snatched from his hands the crown and he placed it on his head. This defiant gesture Bonaparte claimed the absolute nature of his power, showed that it is obliged only to himself and not to promote the Pope, and anyone (by the way, later, when Napoleon joined the French Papal States, Pius VII would be thrown into prison). Initially, David intended to depict precisely the moment of the laying on of the crown. But, on reflection, decided that it will bring unnecessary conflict and drama, and portrayed the next stage of the ceremony when Napoleon crowns Josephine.

In "the coronation of Napoleon" David tries not to miss any important details. Many present at the ceremony – a real person. The artist is depicted sitting somewhere in the stands. Many officials of the Napoleonic state apparatus, identifying himself in the picture, then expressed displeasure: why David put them so far away from the Emperor. The artist retorted: "To be too close to the sun – not safe for life".

Napoleon demanded to make some changes – for example, David had to finish his mother Leticia, who in reality was absent at the ceremony. But in General, the Emperor remained "the Coronation" happy: "Fine, just fine! David, you failed to comprehend my thoughts and to portray me as a French knight!"

Author: Anna Yesterday
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