The Battle of Eylau

The Battle of Eylau

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Title: Napoleon on the battlefield of Eylau, February 9, 1807.

Author : GROS Antoine-Jean (1771 - 1835)

School : Romanticism

Creation date : 1808

Date shown: 09 February 1807

Dimensions: Height 521 - Width 734

Technique and other indications: Commissioned following a competition opened in 1807 oil painting on canvas

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Picture reference: 97DE18496 / INV 5067

Napoleon on the battlefield of Eylau, February 9, 1807.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

After the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine (July 12, 1806) which brought together sixteen German princes under the presidency of Murat, Grand Duke of Berg, archchancellor of the Empire, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the emperor was faced with an ultimatum from Prussia (1er October) and a fourth coalition of foreign powers which unites England, Prussia, Russia and Sweden.

The "march to the East", marked by victories - battles of Jena and Auerstaedt (October 14), capture of Berlin (October 25), Franco-Prussian armistice (November 9), capture of Warsaw (December 28) , Battle of Eylau (February 8, 1807), Franco-Swedish armistice (April 18), capitulation of Danzig (May 26), Battle of Friedland (June 14), Franco-Russian armistice (June 21) -, ends with the peace of Tilsit (July 7).

Image Analysis

The subject of the painting had been the subject, despite the reluctance of the artists for this kind of exercise, of a competition launched in March-April 1807 by Dominique Vivant Denon, director of the Louvre, on the order of the emperor.

Denon drew up detailed instructions for the competitors, accompanied by a numbered sketch which specified the observation point, the elements of the landscape, the position of the armies, the place, the attitudes and the costumes of the various characters. This iconographic program, in truth too rich to fit into a single painting, perfectly illuminates the intentions which presided over this official commission. It was to represent "the day after Eylau, and the moment when the Emperor visiting the battlefield comes to bear indiscriminately help and consolation to the honorable victims of the fighting ”.

Denon’s notice, while it does refer to a "vast field of carnage", in fact completely eludes the heavy French losses (notably those of Augereau) and only explicitly refers to the bloody bodies of the Russians. On the other hand, it was necessary to emphasize the magnanimity and compassion of the emperor, represented surrounded by his generals, worrying about the medical care provided to the wounded - which was not really a priority for him - and thus arousing the gratitude and dedication of even defeated soldiers.

Interpretation

Gros's project, which broadly respected Denon's program, was chosen from among the twenty-six sketches submitted on May 15, 1807 to the Napoleon museum.

The beauty of the snow-covered landscape in the background, the uncompromising realism with which the victims in the foreground, most identifiable with Russian soldiers, are treated, the nobility of the attitude of the young Lithuanian hussar swearing loyalty to the emperor (figure provided for in Denon's program), the majestic kindness with which the figure of Napoleon is imprinted, are all features that distinguish this exceptional piece of propaganda, conceived from the start as a counterpart to the Plague victims of Jaffa from which he takes up the theme of sovereign compassion.

  • battles
  • Great Army
  • napoleonic wars
  • Napoleonic legend
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • Murat (Joachim)

Bibliography

André CHASTEL, French Art, t. 4, The Time of Eloquence 1775-1825, Paris, Flammarion, 2000.

Roger DUFRAISSE, Michel KERAUTRET, Napoleonic France. External aspects, Paris, Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1999.

Annie JOURDAN, Napoleon, hero, imperator, patron, Aubier, 1998.

Jean TULARD (dir.), Napoleon dictionary, Paris, Fayard, 1987 new. ed., 1999.

Jean TULARD (dir.), The History of Napoleon through painting, Paris, Belfond, 1991.

COLLECTIVE, From David to Delacroix, catalog of the exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris, Grand Palais, 1974-1975.

To cite this article

Robert FOHR, "The Battle of Eylau"


Video: The Battle of Eylau, Arty Coms opinion.