Monday, October 27, 2008

Jacques-Louis David's Un-Napoleon

Offered the crown by his troops, George Washington declined, and retired from the Continental Army once the War of Independence was won. Elected his nation's first president, Washington served only two terms, setting a precedent for the peaceful transfer of power which has lasted for two centuries, even through civil war.

Napoleon Bonaparte, who rose to power as a champion of the French Republic, declared himself Emperor in 1801. Rather than be coronated by another, he crowned himself with the gilded laurels he had commissioned. Washington sat for few portraits, and built no monuments. Napoleon sat for the most prestegious painters he could hire, bedecked more vainly than any pansy or peacock. Above is Ingres' "Napoleon on his Imperial Throne."

The website ran a contest for Photoshop users asking contestants to leave the costume, but remove the subject from famous works of art. Submissions included such works as American Gothic, and Bouguereau's Dawn.

My favorite submission (below) was Napoleon, by "Mayonesa" from Caracas, Venezuela. It is based on Jacques-Louis David's work here. Looking at the work, one wonders if it might have been the real inspiration for the fable of the emperor's new clothes? One wonders, was Napoleon ever really there to begin with?

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