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Thread: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

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    Default What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    ...If only this question could be answered so easily. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of different representations in existence. The German dramatist August von Kotzebue said that the majority of these depictions are quite far from the truth. He named Isabey's drawing of Napoleon stading near Chateau de Malmaison and the 5 francs coin from the year XII (1804) as being the most faithful representations. Factors such as age and health should be taken into consideration, naturally.


    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Bonaparte at Malmaison, by Jean-Baptiste Isabey (black chalk drawing, 1801). Here is what the author has to say about this particular piece of art: There, I performed the first full-length portrait of General Bonaparte. From morning to night, I saw him walking lonely in the park, his hands behind his back, absorbed in his ideas and it was easy for me to enter his pensive expression and the appearance of his figure. After finishing the portrait, I presented it to the general: he was pleased with its likeness, he congratulated me mainly for being able to work on it without having to make him sit as a model.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    5 Francs coin from 1804. August von Kotzebue: "Each time I see one it's like I'm viewing the Consul before my eyes".
    Last edited by Maximinus Thrax; April 23, 2012 at 11:35 AM.

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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    Superb question (+Rep when able to do so)!

    "The unequalled collection of engraved portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte and his family and marshals, belonging to Hon. James T.Mitchell .. (1908)" at http://archive.org/download/unequall...llec01mitc.pdf has a number of line engravings of Napoleon at different ages. Based on these etc i tend towards the Bridge at arcole...
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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    http://www.sequoiaventures.com/iPenS...n-study300.jpg

    I've always thought that gave a very realistic image of him in 1812 when it was painted. My favourite though is the Bridge at Arcole, he looks so heroic and dashing
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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    Quote Originally Posted by Prince of Essling View Post
    Based on these etc i tend towards the Bridge at arcole...
    Quote Originally Posted by Imperial Redcoat View Post
    My favourite though is the Bridge at Arcole, he looks so heroic and dashing
    An interesting opinion, albeit very strange. I'm refering to the article below, of course .

    http://www.everypainterpaintshimself...t_of_napoleon/


    Gros, Detail of Napoleon at Arcole (1796/7); Gros, Detail of Self-Portrait (c. 1790-95)

    Gros, in making Napoleon resemble his earlier self-portrait, must already have noted the same method in hundreds of portraits since the Renaissance. The Louvre is full of them (as you can see in the Galleries). And like his predecessors he seems to have kept knowledge of the tradition to himself. There is one hint in the archive, though, that not all is at it seems. Gros wrote home to his mother that the session with Napoleon was hardly a “sitting” because the general was restless and “it was necessary to resign myself to painting the character of his physiognomy, and after that, to try my hardest to give it the character of a portrait.”

    Given the evidence, though, that description of what happened sounds like a euphemism for fusing his own features with Napoleon's. However, what is the portrait’s meaning? Gros, in identifying his artistic career with the meteoric rise of the dashing general, was portraying himself, as many French masters had done before him, as the new hero of French art.
    Last edited by Maximinus Thrax; April 23, 2012 at 12:57 PM.

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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

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    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    Quote Originally Posted by Maximinus Thrax View Post
    An interesting opinion, albeit very strange. I'm refering to the article below, of course .

    http://www.everypainterpaintshimself...t_of_napoleon/


    Gros, Detail of Napoleon at Arcole (1796/7); Gros, Detail of Self-Portrait (c. 1790-95)
    Its Napoleon's chin that convinces me - see attached images from the James T Mitchell book -
    unfortunately I couldn't get the images to go any larger
    Like the rest of us as Napoleon got older & had better quality food etc his face filled out.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails nap1.jpg   nap2.jpg   nap3.png   nap4.jpg  
    Last edited by Prince of Essling; April 23, 2012 at 02:58 PM.
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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    An interesting opinion, albeit very strange
    Hehe, I am aware of what REALLY happened at Arcole....i.e Napoleon standing on the bridge before being pulled into a ditch to avoid being shot I just like the pre-empire depiction of him That article is interesting though, I had never thought of that perspective before
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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    The more thin faced images look more like the face of the death mask. I think in his youth he was quite lean and when he was in bad health at the end he was obese and pot bellied. He probably was a bit more stout during his height. If I was Emperor I'd probably put on some weight.



    From descriptions, he's got very strong bone structure. He's sharp with a big head. His nose, his cheeks, his brow, his blue eyes. He was always described as sickly and gaunt. His hair was chestnut brown and he had a nice smile. Constantly taking snuff so that his uniform was always stained with tobacco (I hate getting snuff all over me.)

    For all his Imperial Splendor everyone found him to be an unassuming man of the people when they met him.

    He was compared to Augustus, so I imagine he looked like Canova's portrayal of him.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Col. Tartleton; April 23, 2012 at 05:42 PM.
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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    Quote Originally Posted by Prince of Essling View Post
    Its Napoleon's chin that convinces me - see attached images from the James T Mitchell book
    Indeed, that slightly prominent chin is also featured in his earlier portraits. The painting has a strong resemblance to Isabey's drawing. It is said that Napoleon sat for five painters during the First Italian Campaign: Andrea Appiani, Bacler d'Albe, Antoine Gros, Louis Laffite and Francesco Cossia. d'Albe's, Appiani's and Gros' creations are quite similar to each other, regarding the facial structure (even the poses is quite similar, underlining his profile). Laffite's painting is rather rubbish, while Cossia's is pure garbage.
    Since all of these paintings were created around 1796/1797 then I should mention J-L David's sketches, which in my opinion fail to depict the same man.
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Quote Originally Posted by Imperial Redcoat View Post
    Hehe, I am aware of what REALLY happened at Arcole....i.e Napoleon standing on the bridge before being pulled into a ditch to avoid being shot
    Napoleon knew exactly how to build a grandiose image for himself. With that very portrait, he became aware of the importance of art as a propagandistic mechanism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Col. Tartleton View Post
    The more thin faced images look more like the face of the death mask. I think in his use and when he was in bad health at the end at the very least he had a thin face. He probably was a bit more stout during his height. If I was Emperor I'd probably put on some weight.
    Even his death mask is surrounded with numerous stories. The more I read on the subject the more I'm convinced that Napoleon should be known as the Man with a Hundred Faces. Either that or there were some really bad painters living during his lifetime.
    Last edited by Maximinus Thrax; April 24, 2012 at 07:29 AM.

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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?


    This is pretty accurate but the one where he is crossing the alps and seated on a brown horse looks like the most real (although in that he looks more like in 1806)
    the coin shown by someone else looks very accurate but the chin looks too large.





    not bad


    Chin is too long.




    BAD:

    By far the worst representation, also the one with napoleon in 1812 in his study is apparently not great and neither is the one where he is seated in his throne.



    Regarding Napoleon's eyes, it seems that his eyes changed colour and that they were brown and then blue, like a sort of purplish blue brown type colour.
    Last edited by Lord Oda Nobunaga; April 23, 2012 at 07:16 PM.

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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    Quote Originally Posted by Col. Tartleton View Post
    The more thin faced images look more like the face of the death mask. I think in his youth he was quite lean and when he was in bad health at the end he was obese and pot bellied. He probably was a bit more stout during his height. If I was Emperor I'd probably put on some weight.



    From descriptions, he's got very strong bone structure. He's sharp with a big head. His nose, his cheeks, his brow, his blue eyes. He was always described as sickly and gaunt. His hair was chestnut brown and he had a nice smile. Constantly taking snuff so that his uniform was always stained with tobacco (I hate getting snuff all over me.)

    For all his Imperial Splendor everyone found him to be an unassuming man of the people when they met him.

    He was compared to Augustus, so I imagine he looked like Canova's portrayal of him.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	104.jpg 
Views:	77 
Size:	86.8 KB 
ID:	218129

    Boom Lazy Photoshop.

    He would have lost a great deal of his weight in his latest months as he was suffering and eventually killed by either a slow poisoning by arsenic or a tumor in his stomach.
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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    His image evolves from his youth to his exile.

    The coin makes him look very Roman, which may have been slightly exaggerated.

    The image most of us remember would be during Waterloo, short, stoutish and prickly, whereas he seems wild, lean and hungry during the early days of the Revolution, ambitious, impatient and paranoid during his rise, congenial and statesmanlike as First Consul, and imperious as the Emperor.

    I recall an article that said testing of a lock of his hair confirmed the presence of arsenic, and the likely suspect was one of his aides that later was promoted by the Bourbons.
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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    Quote Originally Posted by money View Post
    BAD:

    By far the worst representation, also the one with napoleon in 1812 in his study is apparently not great and neither is the one where he is seated in his throne.



    That's not that bad considering the following picture (Francesco Cossia's waste of canvas - 1797):
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    - about Paul Delaroche's Crossing of the Alps (1848): the face is very similar to Napoleon's likeness from the 5 Francs coin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Condottiere 40K View Post
    The coin makes him look very Roman, which may have been slightly exaggerated.
    I don't know what to say, this similarity to ancient iconographies was fully confirmed by plenty of neutral observers (blame it on the genetics ). The fashionable hairstyle must have probably played an important role regarding this particular aspect.

    What a shame we don't have a daguerreotype of him, like in Wellington's case.

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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    Personally, I think this would be a close likeness, I don't know why, it just seems more realistic. The sunken eyes, slightly large nose and chin - suttle "Italian" features, due to his Corsican heritage. These features seem to be the more predominant ones in many pieces of art, otherwise the rest is altered propaganda or just artistic depictions in my opinion as everything else varies from painting to painting, but these features I described seem to re-occur more often than any others and remain similar.



    or even

    Last edited by Invictus XII; April 28, 2012 at 06:45 AM.
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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    That other painting does looklike crap, the half finished one and the one below that look very good though and is definitley a better version of Napoleon in his study. Did Napoleon pose for these or did they make them up?


    this is perfect for 1809!

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    Default Re: What could be the most accurate portrait of Napoleon?

    Again, yer. This above picture really depicts what I was saying about the common sunken eyes, slightly hooked nose and chin. Or as I colloquially referred to it as the "Italian look" due to his Corsican heritage. Other images show him with different characteristics, but I think thats purely out of artistic liberties, there are no other common facial features for Napoleon that re-occur across numerous paintings. So that would be the most likely face of the Emperor.
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