One of the prized paintings in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
The painting was produced at the request of an Englishman, Arthur George, 3rd Earl of Onslow, a collector of Napoleonic memorabilia.
Apparently he was walking in the Louvre with Delaroche when they stopped before the famous David painting, which he said was over dramatic, and he asked Delaroche to produce a more realistic painting - or so the story goes.
In the event Delaroche produced two versions - one went across the Atlantic and is now in the Louvre. The other went to the Earl of Onslow and ultimately to the Liverpool gallery. Queen Victoria also acquired a copy.
The Walker's comentary notes
Perhaps surprisingly, there were many admirers of Napoleon in Britain, associating his memory either with enlightened progress in opposition to reactionary monarchy or alternatively with military genius. His brutal suppression of nations, huge military losses and genocidal colonial policy were somehow glossed over.
Clearly I do not share the writer's surprise. Nineteenth century upper class Englishmen had a very different view of the world from us. They rated military prowess rather more highly than we do, and some, like Churchill, rather regretted the passing of an age in which they could fight wars against other Europeans, rather than against the lesser races. Most would certainly not have dreamed of criticising Napoleon for his colonial policies, and indeed it would have been rather hypocritical for them to have done so!
Apparently Delaroche's painting was not to everyone's taste. A reviewer for the Athenaeum commented that it had a truth
which will be dear to those who exalt the Dutch School for like qualities into the foremost rank of excellence. But the lofty and daring genius that led the humble Lieutenant of Ajaccio to be ruler and arbiter of the destinies of the larger part of Europe will be sought in vain by M. Delaroche.
Personally I prefer this painting to the David image - but then I have always admired the Dutch school - probably a result of my Roundhead East Anglian origins! Probably explains the colour (or lack of it) of this blog.