Napoleon Crossing the Alps: Historical Meaning Behind the Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Crossing the Alps: Historical Meaning Behind the Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte

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Napoleon crossing the Alps is also is the title given to the five versions of oil on canvas equestrian portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte painted by the French artist Jacques-Louis David between 1801 and 1805. Initially commissioned by the Spanish Ambassador to France, the composition shows a strongly idealized view of the real crossing that Napoleon and his army made across the Alps through the Great St. Bernard Pass in May 1800. Napoleon comes across to me as a leader in many different of ways. Jacques- Louis David is the creator of this painting. He has put certain devices and effects in his work to help the viewers come to a certain opinion and have a certain type of an impression of Napoleon. This was after Napoleon had took his army a crossed the Alps. He surprised and defeated an Austrian army. His calm, controlled figure is guiding a wildly rearing horse is symbolic of his vision of himself as bringing order to post revolutionary France. This was Jacques-Louis David’s earliest painting. This piece of work was propaganda. Propaganda is communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community towards some cause. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense, often presents information primarily in order to influence its audience.
The painting was not very realistic. Napoleon is much larger then his horse. He was a very short man and only was about Five foot four inches tall. David did this on purpose to make him seem larger than life. Another unrealistic part of this painting was that he did not ride a horse he rode a mule. His point of doing that was to make him seem higher, like a king. Napoleons clothes were in great condition for completing such a hard task to d...


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...gustus by Pope Leo 111 on 25, December 800 as a rival of the byzantine Emperor in Constantinople. Charlemagne also helped define both Western Europe and the middle ages. The gesture is omnipresent in David’s painting from St. Roch interceding with the virgin for the plague stricken to mars disarmed by Venus and the graces. In Napoleon crossing the Alps, the gesture leaves no doubt as to the will of the commander to arrive to his goal. It does not indicate the summit, but rather shows the obs ever the inevitability of victory and at the same time orders his soldiers to follow. The bare rather than gloved hand may indicate Napoleon desiring to appear as a peacemaker rather than a conqueror. In this picture, the rock has names of Hannibal and Charlemagne along side Bonaparte, linking them by their crossing of the Alps, and portraying Napoleon as their successor.

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