The Great Army loyal to the Emperor

The Great Army loyal to the Emperor

  • Napoleon harangues the 2nd corps of the Grande-Armée on the Lech bridge in Augsburg.

    GAUTHEROT Pierre (1769 - 1825)

  • Napoleon harangues the Bavarian and Wurtemburgish troops in Abensberg.

    DEBRET Jean-Baptiste (1768 - 1848)

  • Napoleon's return to Lobau Island after the Battle of Essling.

    MEYNIER Charles (1763 - 1832)

To close

Title: Napoleon harangues the 2nd corps of the Grande-Armée on the Lech bridge in Augsburg.

Author : GAUTHEROT Pierre (1769 - 1825)

Creation date : 1808

Date shown: October 12, 1805

Dimensions: Height 385 - Width 620

Technique and other indications: (12 October 1805) Oil painting on canvas

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Picture reference: 78EE204 / MV.1512

Napoleon harangues the 2nd corps of the Grande-Armée on the Lech bridge in Augsburg.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Napoleon harangues the Bavarian and Wurtemburgish troops in Abensberg.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Napoleon's return to Lobau Island after the Battle of Essling.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Symbol if it is of popular unanimity, the oath, which during the Revolution became the inalienable proclamation of the sovereign body of the nation, was widely taken up by Napoleon to tie up his soldiers in particular. It was therefore only under the Empire that it really developed.

Image Analysis

Napoleon harangues the 2nd corps of the Grande-Armée on the Lech bridge in Augsburg by Pierre Gautherot

During the German campaign of 1805, the Grande Armée took the Austrian troops in reverse at Ulm. Preparing to invest Augsburg, Marshal Soult's corps crossed the Lech on the Sechausen Bridge. Napoleon, followed by his staff among which we recognize Bessières and the Mamluk Roustam, represented from the portrait of Paillot (1806, Musée de l'Armée), made the grenadiers of the 2nd Corps take the oath.

Besides the homage it pays to enthusiasm and military order, Gautherot's work is also a sort of sacred painting, where, with their outstretched arms, the soldiers manifest both love and love. attachment they have for their emperor, in the circumstances more warlord than true sovereign. Advancing between two columns of soldiers that open to let him pass, he salutes his troops on one side, stretching out his arm, and on the other, kissing them with eyes. It is a communion with his soldiers that Napoleon proceeds here.

Napoleon harangues the Bavarian and Wurtemburg troops in Abensberg by Jean-Baptiste Debret

From the end of the year 1805, the French Empire restructured Germany, suppressing the Holy Roman Empire and creating vassal buffer states of France: Confederation of the Rhine, kingdoms of Wurtemberg, Bavaria, from Westphalia. Non-French military contingents then had to serve in the Grande Armée. The oath was then intended to engage their loyalty to the Emperor, like the one passed by Wurtembergers and Bavarians at the start of the harsh Austrian campaign of 1809. All the more so as German nationalism was beginning to take hold. felt since Fichte's Speeches to the German Nation delivered at the University of Berlin in 1807-1808. Vienna then appeared as the center of resistance to France.

Debret's painting, as Gautherot's pupil of David, is extremely similar in spirit to the preceding one, although its composition borders on the neoclassical tradition more closely. It represents the moment when the Prince Royal of Bavaria turns to his soldiers to translate Napoleon's words. Behind the prince stands the Württemberg general de Wrede.

Napoleon's return to Lobau Island after the Battle of Essling by Charles Meynier

After advancing to the gates of Vienna, the Grand Army was stranded in Lobau Island on the Danube. Trying to cross the river on wooden bridges, it failed to break through at the Battle of Essling. The wounded piled up on Lobau Island.

Meynier obviously never having seen a battlefield, this painting is a pretext to paint beautiful neoclassical academies, and if Napoleon, followed by Berthier, chief of staff of the Grande Armée, comes to comfort the wounded, by taking the oath he is one with them. His attitude is hardly convincing, however. Unlike the previous two scenes, which take place before the battle, this one takes place after Essling. Note, however, the great science of drawing and light which is the hallmark of Meynier, one of the best neoclassical painters, a student of Vincent who won the Prix de Rome in 1789 at the same time as Girodet. The work is far superior to that of Gautherot and Debret, if only for the skill of its composition. It seems, however, that the artist was unconvinced by his subject, like many painters of the time, more concerned with Antiquity.

Interpretation

Bathed in classical culture, the men of the Revolution and the Empire reactivated a number of ancient notions, such as the Republic, the Senate, the Consulate, etc. The oath by the outstretched arm is also a gesture taken from the Roman salute. Returned to fashion under the Revolution, the action was to take on all its importance with the Napoleonic Empire, assimilated in the minds to the Roman Empire and the Carolingian Empire, its heir.

Under the Empire, however, it was no longer a question of taking an oath to an idea, the Nation, the Republic, etc., but indeed to a man, or even to a warlord, because it is never the people who express themselves in these paintings, but always the army. Even if it is a question of the people in arms, heir to the revolutionary army just as Napoleon represents the Nation of which he is the first sacred magistrate, we are still dealing above all with soldiers taking an oath to their supreme leader. This is where Napoleon's true profile fully reveals itself.

  • Germany
  • army
  • battles
  • Great Army
  • napoleonic wars
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • neoclassicism
  • oath

Bibliography

Claire CONSTANS National Museum of the Palace of Versailles: Paintings , 2 vol.Paris, RMN, 1995.Roger DUFRAISSE, Michel KERAUTRET Napoleonic France External Aspects Paris, Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 1999.Georges LEFEBVRE Napoleon Paris, PUF, 1969.Alain PIGEARD Napoleon's Army, organization and daily life Paris, Taillandier, 2000 Jean TULARD (dir.) Napoleon dictionary Paris, Fayard, 1987. Jean TULARD (dir.) The History of Napoleon through painting Paris, Belfond, 1991.C.O. ZIESENISS "Considerations on the iconography of the Mamluk Roustam" in Bulletin of the Society for the History of French Art , year 1988, 1989, p.169-173. From David to Delacroix , catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-PalaisRMN, Paris, 1974-1975. Dominique Vivant Denon: The Eye of Napoleon , catalog of the exhibition at the LouvreRMN, Paris, 1999-2000.Claire CONSTANS National Museum of the Palace of Versailles: Paintings , 2 vol.Paris, RMN, 1995.Roger DUFRAISSE, Michel KERAUTRET Napoleonic France External Aspects Paris, Seuil, coll. "Points Histoire", 1999.Georges LEFEBVRE Napoleon Paris, PUF, 1969.Alain PIGEARD Napoleon's Army, organization and daily life Paris, Taillandier, 2000 Jean TULARD (dir.) Napoleon dictionary Paris, Fayard, 1987. Jean TULARD (dir.) The History of Napoleon through painting Paris, Belfond, 1991.C.O. ZIESENISS "Considerations on the iconography of the Mamluk Roustam" in Bulletin of the Society for the History of French Art , year 1988, 1989, p.169-173. From David to Delacroix , catalog of the exhibition at the Grand-PalaisRMN, Paris, 1974-1975. Dominique Vivant Denon: The Eye of Napoleon , catalog of the exhibition at the LouvreRMN, Paris, 1999-2000.

To cite this article

Jérémie BENOÎT, "The Great Army loyal to the Emperor"


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