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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by Deutscher Kunstverlag (DKV) November 29, 2021

“The condition most habitual with him, work”: David’s Portrait of Napoleon in His Cabinet at the Tuileries

T. Lawrence Larkin


In Napoleon in His Cabinet at the Tuileries (1811–1812), Jacques-Louis David designed a new portrait type wherein the emperor appears to have been up all night working for the welfare of his subjects, furthering the legend of an indefatigable administrator. This essay explores the relationship between Scottish patron and French artist in the fulfilment of a commission, the process of working through post-revolutionary consular and imperial modes of portraiture, the references to civil and military affairs meant to affirm public reports about the emperor’s administrative accomplishments, and the conversation about the relative value of status and money as compensation appropriate for the achievement of a new portrait identity. Despite the brilliant subtlety of David's conceit, Napoleon was content to continue to subsidize the overblown imperialist rhetoric of François Gérard and others.

  1. Photo Credits: 1, 15, 16, 17 National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. — 2 © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY (photo: Gérard Blot). — 3 Art Resource, NY (photo: Erich Lessing). — 4 © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY (photo: Philipp Bernard). — 5 © President and Fellows of Harvard College (1943.228). — 6, 21 © Photo Josse / Bridgeman Images, New York. — 7 from: Agathon-Jean-François Fain, Mémoires du Baron Fain, Premier secrétaire du cabinet de l’Empereur, ed. by Paul Fain, Paris 1908, between pages 317 and 319. — 8 © Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie, Besançon (photo: P. Guenat). — 9, 10 Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. — 11, 13 HIP / Art Resource, NY. — 12 © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY (photo: C. Jean). — 14 from: Charles-Paul Landon, Salon de 1808, Paris 1810, vol. 2, pl. 23–24. — 18 Artokoloro / Alamy Stock Photo. — 19 Vincenzo Pirozzi / Bridgeman Images, New York. — 20 © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY (photo: Michel Urtado).

Published Online: 2021-11-29

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston