Napoleon - An Intimate Portrait

The Egyptian Campaign

In 1798, Napoléon convinced the Directory to authorize the bold plan of invading Egypt to block British trade routes and divert English military energy from attacking France. The campaign began well but ended in calamity. First, British Admiral Nelson destroyed the French fleet at Aboukir. This trapped the already beleaguered French troops in the Middle East, ultimately causing over 50% casualties due to disease and combat. Learning of the deteriorating political situation in France, Napoléon secretly set sail for France to rescue a government in disarray and perhaps gain further status for himself. He handed over his Egyptian command to the capable General Jean-Baptiste Kléber, who was furious at being left in an impossible situation.

Though clearly not a military success, the Egyptian campaign was to have a long-lasting impact. The team of artists, scientists and writers that Napoléon took with him to the Middle East were the first westerners to catalogue the wonders of the historic region. Their work sparked a fascination with ancient Egypt that has continued to this day.


“General Bonaparte Commanding the Army of Italy”
Andrea Appiani. Engraving by Alix - 1798
One of the first known engravings of General Bonaparte, it captures the resolution and intensity that produced the extraordinary successes of the First Italian Campaign from March 1796 to December 1797.
Historical Provenance - Contesse de Chambure collection
Engraving with watercolor

More images in this section:

Images © Chalençon
A Traveling Exhibition from Russell Etling Company (c) 2011