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Portrait, Napoleon, Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet, Antique Print, Paris, c 1820s


Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet (1792-1845)
Napoleon I
Paris: c. 1820s
Signed in stone: Charlet 1821
Hand-colored lithograph mounted on hand-made French mat
16.5 x 11.25 inches, lithograph
19.25 x 14.25 inches, overall, including French mat mount

Lithograph of Napoleon Bonaparte by Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet, one of the artists credited with shaping his legend in the 19th century. This is a hand-colored lithograph, cut to the image and mounted on a French mat, to look like an original watercolor, probably as issued. The portrait shows a pensive Napoleon in a dark, windswept landscape standing beside a campfire. The work is dated 1821 in the lithograph stone, the year of Napoleon’s death, suggesting it was intended as an elegy for the former French general and emperor. Napoleon’s death enhanced his mythic status among French Romantic writers and artists as an epic figure and genius who inspired countless works of literature and art during the period between 1821 and the fall of the Second Empire in 1870. Prominent among these artists was Charlet, who produced so many works with Napoleon as subject that he is considered one of those who shaped the Napoleonic legend, and is the subject of an exhibition titled “Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet, The Origins of the Napoleonic Legend,” which toured French museums in 2008-09.

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Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet was a French painter and printmaker. He worked as a civil servant in Paris, then joined the army. A Bonapartist, he lost his commission when the monarchy was restored, and turned to drawing and painting and began an apprenticeship with Antoine-Jean Gros in 1817. He began publishing lithographs which reflected his military background, including a collection of infantry uniforms and illustrations for Antoine-Vincent Arnault’s La Vie Politique et Militaire de Napoléon (1826). After the revolution of 1830, he became a captain in the National Guard and held other military positions for the next decade. He is best known for battle scenes of the Napoleonic era. Charlet was elected to the Academy of Beaux-Arts in 1836. His works today are in the collections of numerous French museums and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Lithograph cut to image and mounted on French mat, probably as issued, and almost certain nonetheless in the 19th century.


Eldridge, Alana. “Writing Visual History into La Comédie humaine: Balzac and the Napoleonic Myth.” European Studies Conference Selected Proceedings, University of Nebraska at Omaha. 2007. (2 June 2009).

“Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. (2 June 2009).

“Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet, aux origines de la légende napoléonienne.” 2009. (2 June 2009).