Napoleon - An Intimate Portrait

The Road to Defeat

Although Napoléon’s army was almost universally victorious and his empire grew to govern more than 80 million people, these gains proved to be short-lived. The fierce resistance of Spain to French rule, a series of international coalitions formed to defeat the “upstart” French Emperor, a disastrous decision to invade Russia, the war weariness of his Marshals and his inability to rally occupied Paris led to his abdication at Fontainebleau in 1814. He was exiled to Elba and Bourbon rule was restored under King Louis XVIII. Napoléon’s exile did not last long, however. Within less than a year, he escaped from Elba and returned to France, rallying the French people to his side in yet another bloodless coup. During the “Hundred Days,” Napoléon continued to wage war with his enemies, now more determined than ever to eliminate this threat to their monarchies. Final defeat came at the hands of generals Wellington and Blücher on the battlefield at Waterloo, a name that has become synonymous with personal downfall.


“Napoléon at Fontainebleau”
Paul Hippolyte Delaroche - 1848
One of the most famous events in the Napoléon canon is his moving farewell to the Grand Army at Fontainebleau after his first abdication in 1814. The advent of Louis-Philippe as king of France in 1830 encouraged the resurgence of the cult of Napoléon. Paul Delaroche became a well known interpreter of the legend.
Historical Provenance - Private collection, Belgium
Oil on canvas

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