Napoleon - An Intimate Portrait

Napoléon at War

Napoléon Bonaparte ranks among the greatest military strategists and field commanders who ever lived. He repeatedly defeated much larger armies by duping enemy generals into dividing up their forces and using flanking maneuvers that required unheard of speed and precision of troop movement. His structure for the Grand Army facilitated the command and deployment of vast forces and is used to this day. The names of his victorious battles continue to resonate—Austerlitz, Marengo, Wagram, Arcola, Jena. Because of his successes and his ability to appeal to their honor, Napoléon evoked fierce loyalty from his troops, in spite of the fact that the persistent attacks of his enemies, combined with his own ambition, caused him to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands of French fighting men during his years in power.


"Bonaparte Crossing the Alps by the Great Saint Bernard Pass"
Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse with Jacques-Louis David - c. 1807
The most famous depiction of Napoléon’s military career, Bonaparte Crossing the Alps captures the energy and excitement of his Italian campaigns and rise to power. Like Hannibal and Charlemagne, whose names appear at the painting’s bottom, Bonaparte courageously took his forces over the Alps in order to surprise his enemy. The strategy ultimately secured him victory at the Battle of Marengo. This painting also demonstrates David’s talent as a propagandist for Napoléon, who actually crossed the mountains on a mule.
Oil on canvas

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