This painting depicts Napoleon in his decadent coronation costume, seated upon his golden-encrusted throne, hand resting upon smooth ivory balls. It was first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1806, and received such bad reviews that Ingres was humiliated, and vowed never to exhibit again at the Salon, and refused to return to return to Paris. Although the painting was owned at the time by the Corps Legislatif, a part of the French legislature, the painting contains certain markings at the top right of the painting, leading art historians to believe that the painting was originally commissioned as portrait of Napoleon as King of Italy.More ...
Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne (French: Napoléon Ier sur le trône impérial) is an 1806 portrait of Napoleon I of France in his coronation costume, painted by the French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
The painting shows Napoleon as emperor, in the costume he wore for his coronation, seated on a circular-backed throne with armrests adorned with ivory balls. In his right hand he holds the sceptre of Charlemagne and in his left the hand of justice. On his head is a golden laurel wreath, similar to one worn by Caesar. He also wears an ermine hood under the great collar of the Légion d'honneur, a gold-embroidered satin tunic and an ermine-lined purple velvet cloak decorated with gold bees. The coronation sword is in its scabbard and held up by a silk scarf. The subject wears white shoes embroidered in gold and resting on a cushion. The carpet under the throne displays an imperial eagle. The signature INGRES P is in the bottom left, and ANNO 1806 in the bottom right.
The painting was exhibited as work number 272 at the 1806 Paris Salon as His Majesty the Emperor on his throne, when it was recorded as being owned by the Corps législatif. At the same salon Robert Lefèvre exhibited his Portrait of Napoleon in his coronation costume. In 1815 Ingres's painting was transferred to the Louvre Museum, where it was first inventoried as MR 2069 and is now known as INV. 5420. In 1832 the comte de Forbin had it put on display in the Hotel des Invalides, at first in the chapel then from 1860 in the library. It is now on show in the Musée de l'Armée.
At the top right of the painting (and much more visibly on the preparatory drawing), cut off halfway across its width, can be seen a shield with the arms of the Papal States, Este, Lombardy, Venice and Savoy, all surmounted with the crown of Italy. From this Sébastien Allard hypothesizes that the painting was commissioned by an Italian institution to show Napoleon as king of Italy not as emperor, but, due to its innovative iconography, the original commissioners refused it and that was why it was acquired by the Corps législatif.
This portrait's frontality refers to the colossal Statue of Zeus at Olympia by Phidias, whose pose served as the model not only for many representations of sovereigns but also for Christian iconography. Ingres himself also used this pose for his Jupiter and Thetis. The musée de Montauban has a chalice with an image after a Byzantine panel showing the seated emperor, which may have been Ingres' direct model.
For Robert Rosenblum, Ingres's model was the figure of God the Father on the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck, which was in the Louvre at the time Ingres painted this portrait. The contemporary critic Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Chaussard compared Ingres's style in this portrait to that of Van Eyck (then known as Jean de Bruges):
However, Ingres himself stated:
In the left border of the carpet, among medallions of the zodiac, is a medallion with a version of the Madonna della seggiola by Raphael, the artist Ingres most admired. Ingres pays tribute to Raphael by including this painting in the background of many of his works, such as Henri IV playing with his children and Raphael and La Fornarina and on the table in front of the subject in his Portrait of monsieur Rivière.
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