Napoleon - An Intimate Portrait

The Imperial Court

Napoléon created the Empire with the help of military colleagues and supporters, and he depended on them to help rule it. Some of his core circle of generals, whom he made Marshals of the Empire, were at his side from his early years to the final battle at Waterloo. Most of the Napoléon's friends remained loyal to the end, although a small number of his most renowned generals and counselors, like Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord and General Jean Bernadotte, became notorious for their betrayal.

Although the Emperor lived in surroundings that befit his title, he maintained many of his Spartan ways. He never ceased to drive himself and those around him tirelessly, accomplishing a phenomenal amount in just a few years. Some, however, who surrounded him, including Joséphine, Talleyrand and his close, long-time advisor Jean Jacques Cambacérès, gained a reputation for their taste for the high life and fine food.


“Marshal Louis Alexandre Berthier”
Alix, after Baron Antoine-Jean Gros - 1797
It is doubtful whether the French military command system would have functioned to the degree of excellence it did under Napoléon without Marshall Louis Berthier, his indispensable chief of staff. A veteran of the American Revolution, Berthier’s brilliance lay in his ability to translate the Emperor’s quick, decisive orders into easily understood messages to subordinates. During campaigns, he worked in the Emperor’s eight-horse coach, which was like a mobile hotel, rarely leaving his side. He was with Napoléon from the First Italian Campaign in 1797 until just before the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when he was either murdered or committed suicide.
Historical Provenance - Marshall Nicholas Soult collection
Engraving with watercolor

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