Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Uncle Napoleon

Not one of the best known images of Napoleon.

This picture of him with his nephews and nieces on the terrace at St Cloud was produced in 1810 by Louis Ducis (1775-1847), a student of Jacques-Louis David.

It is one of many reproduced in the Lefebvre book.

I was interested in it because I have a number of times commented on the pleasure which Napoleon derived from the company of children on St. Helena. Those interested should take a look at The Children of Longwood

Art historians would put the picture in a rather different context:

this gender-bent modern allegory of Charity was heart-warming, but also involuntarily somewhat sinister, since it radicalised the idea of the social non-existence of women found in the Code Napoleon - Philippe Bordes, Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile

However, if in reality Napoleon had in fact scarcely any free time to devote to his private life, one element remained to be settled: the future of the dynasty. The Empress Joséphine became sterile, it was necessary however for the Emperor to have an heir. The pictures of Ducis and Pauline Auzou interject then a kind of propaganda showing all the hopes placed by the French in the future of Napoleon. In this sense, they are more than simple scenes of intimacy .. - Jérémie Benôit

Quite coincidentally Napoleon may have enjoyed the company of children!

1 comment:

MissElisabeth said...

Interesting post, I've always been fascinated by this painting of him. One of this typical "Napoleon is innocent, look he plays with kids" paintings.

I do know that when a soldier or officer presented their child to the emperor. Napoleon had the habit to take it in his arms and walk around with it. Some concerned mothers even accused him of kidnapping their children once he dissappeared into the crowd.
It is a fact that Napoleon loved children.