The Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian (1832 - 1867) was installed in Mexico as a puppet emperor by Napoleon III in 1863. He was dependent on the support of the occupying French army and when Napoleon withdrew his troops Maximilian was captured by Mexican forces loyal to their legitimate republican government. He was executed alongside two of his generals, Mejía and Miramón, on 19 June 1867.

The left-hand section of the canvas showing General Mejía was probably cut off by Manet himself. After the artist's death the canvas was cut up into smaller fragments, some of which were sold separately. Edgar Degas eventually purchased all the surviving fragments and reassembled them on a single canvas. A sketch for a group of soldiers, formerly in the Gallery and now in the British Museum, was once thought to have been made in preparation for this work, but its attribution to Manet is no longer certain.

Key facts

Artist
Artist dates
1832 - 1883
Full title
The Execution of Maximilian
Date made
about 1867-8
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
193 x 284 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1918
Inventory number
NG3294
Location in Gallery