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Portrait, Napoleon Le Grand, Jacques-Louis David, Antique Print, London, 19th Century


Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825) (after)
Napoleon Le Grand [Napoleon the Great]
S. Gans, London: 2nd Quarter 19th Century
Etching, on chine appliqué
19.75 x 14 inches, image
22.25 x 17 inches, overall

Portrait study of Napoleon based on the famous full length painting by the renowned French painter Jacques-Louis David, The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries (1812). The painting is now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Napoleon is presented here in the Sunday uniform of a colonel of the Grenadiers à pied de la Garde, in his trademark pose of hand inside his waistcoat. In the original painting, he is in his study, with details showing that he had worked all night at his desk on the Code Napoleon, and was preparing to review his troops. The National Gallery’s web site explains: “It is unlikely that Napoleon actually posed for this portrait despite its convincing detail. The painting is an artful contrivance to convey three aspects of his public image: soldier, emperor, and administrator.” This print is a half-length portrait omitting the lower portion and background of the original.

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Jacques-Louis David was a French painter and draftsman, the most prominent painter of French Neoclassicism, and extremely influential on other European artists of his time. In the 1780s he created his signature style, which broke with the fantastic confections of Rococo art: strongly lit volumetric forms posed in large uncluttered spaces, and focusing on serious subjects from history and literature. David participated in the French Revolution and was imprisoned after Robespierre’s fall from power. After his release, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Napoleon. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1816, he went into exile in Brussels. David’s works are in the collections of the world’s major museums, including the Louvre, the Hermitage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and dozens more.

Full title and publication information: “Napoleon Le Grand. D’aprés le Portrait de S.M. l’Empereur Fait par M’r. David son premier Peintre. [Napoleon the Great. After the Portrait of the Emperor by Monsieur David, His Premier Painter.] London. Published by S. Gans. No. 22, Southampton Street Strand.”

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear.


“Jacques-Louis David.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. (2 June 2009).

“Key Painting – First Empire.” Fondation Napoléon. 2008. (2 June 2009).

“The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries.” National Gallery of Art. 2009. (2 June 2009).