Napoléon, David


Patrick Jean

Fifteen years after the beginning of the revolution, France once again became a monarchy, in the form of an empire. Bonaparte, crowned emperor under the name of Napoleon, ordered David, the most important painter of the time, to create four gigantic canvases commemorating the event. David completed two of the four paintings, including the coronation scene, which is the most famous. From the very start of his career, Bonaparte used and then controlled the press to glorify his actions. Very early on, David represented Bonaparte like a king on a bucking horse, although he was still just an army general. The coronation ceremony was a total show from beginning to end. The costumes and symbols were inspired by royal coronations, from ancient Rome to the crowning of Charlemagne. Two centuries later, the image of a triumphant Napoleon is still imprinted in the mind as a result of these glorious moments. We tend to forget the massacres, the social regression and authoritarianism of Bonaparte’s police regime. What’s more, Napoleon’s example has often been imitated, often for the worse, and despite his resounding failure, he very much succeeded in imposing the ‘image’ as the major element of modern politics.

Original title: NAPOLÉON, DAVID

Nationality: France

Year of production: 2004

Running time: 52'


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