Liverpool artwork of the day – Tuesday May 1 2007. ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’, Paul Delaroche (1797-1856) Oil on canvas, painted in 1850 at The Walker
Napoleon crossed the Alps in May 1800 and in June won his great victory at Marengo in Italy over the Austrians. This painting is a sober and accurate record of the event showing the mule and peasant who took the leader over the Great St. Bernard Pass trailed by his troops on the mountain-side behind.
Delaroche specialised in painting momentous historical events as if they were scenes from everyday life (or even still life). This picture was intended as a corrective to the flamboyant, propagandist rendering of the same event by Napoleon’s own artists.
Another version of this composition is on permanent display in the Louvre, Paris. Both pictures and many other Napoleonic subjects by Delaroche were commissioned by a group of British collectors obsessed with the Napoleonic legend.
An extended study of ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’ is available online as part of the Artwork of the Month series.