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Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet, The Emperor Napoleon I

Key facts
Full title The Emperor Napoleon I
Artist Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet
Artist dates 1789 - 1863
Date made 1815
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 72.4 × 59.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by the Duke of Leinster, 1889
Inventory number NG1285
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Emperor Napoleon I
Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet

This is one of three portraits of Napoleon painted by Vernet in 1815–16 for Charles Kinnaird, 8th Lord Kinnaird of Inchture, an art collector who had been a Member of Parliament and an elected representative peer for Scotland.

Napoleon declared himself Emperor of the French in 1804 and reigned until 1814 and again, briefly, in 1815. In 1814 Vernet had received the Légion d‘Honneur from Napoleon for his role in the defence of Paris, and he remained a fervent and lifelong admirer of the Emperor.

This portrait may be based on a sketch made from life by the artist in 1812. Napoleon is wearing the cross and plaque of the Légion d’Honneur and the cross of the Order of the Iron Crown – both orders he had founded. Although this is a formal portrait that presents Napoleon in his uniform and medals, Vernet offers a sympathetic image of the Emperor, which emphasises the man rather than imperial glory.

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