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French Terracotta Statue of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte
French Terracotta Statue of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte - Sculpture Style Empire
Ref : 112353
32 000 €
Period :
19th century
Provenance :
Dimensions :
l. 24.41 inch X H. 26.77 inch X P. 13.78 inch
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French Terracotta Statue of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte

A rare and superb French nineteenth century black painted terracotta statue of the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte on the Island of St. Helena, seated on a klismos chair with a pile of books below it, wearing a frock coat and leather boots, turning his head to his right, resting his left hand upon his crossed knee and tucking the other hand inside his coat, the whole upon a stepped rectangular base
France, date circa 1825-40
Height 68 cm, width 62 cm, depth 35 cm.
Provenance: From the François Hayem Collection, sold at Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 20th February 2024, lot 264.
The figure of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) is a very familiar one in pictorial history. As Emperor of France, Bonaparte came to embody the spirit of power and despite his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, he continued to be admired, even by his former enemies. That admiration persists today. Napoleon was not only one of history’s finest military leaders but also a man of great intellect with a passion for the arts who commissioned the finest craftsmen of the day. Furthermore, having successfully restored national peace in France after the Revolution, he instigated a series of reforms that united the country, many of which still exist today. For instance, he introduced the first proper accounting system, dramatically reduced inflation and reformed the tax code; he rebuilt much of Paris, including many of its present-day bridges, arches and avenues and also re-established religious tolerance.
In his book “Napoleon the Great”, Andrew Roberts refers to Sir Winston Churchill’s description of Bonaparte as the greatest man of action born in Europe since Julius Caesar. Interestingly Napoleon greatly admired Caesar, whose own regime and artistic style he emulated when creating his own empire. Napoleon’s beginnings showed little promise of his later fame when he was born into a minor noble family on 15th August 1769, on the French owned island of Corsica. As the first Corsican to study at the École Militaire in Paris, he subsequently proved himself an astute military strategist during the French Revolution, when firstly he played a pivotal role in supressing a royalist uprising in Toulon in 1793 and another in Paris on 5th October 1795. Having been made a general at the early age of twenty-four, within a few years he was regarded as France’s most popular general. 1802 saw his appointment as First Consul, followed in 1804 by him crowning himself as the first Emperor of France.
Having successfully conquered Egypt, Austria, Germany, Poland and Spain, his army then suffered catastrophic losses when invading Russia in 1812. The following year he was defeated at Leipzig; he was then forced to abdicate and was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba. Having returned to France, Napoleon was finally defeated a few months later on 18th June 1815, at Waterloo. Napoleon surrendered and was subsequently exiled to the remote volcanic island of St. Helena, in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, where he spent the last six years of his life. He eventually died on 5th May 1821and was buried five days later on the island beside a glade of willow trees and a spring in the Sane Valley. Nineteen years later, Louis-Philippe of France obtained permission from Britain to exhume Napoleon’s body and return it to France for a burial befitting of the nation’s hero. Thus, on 2nd December 1840, over a million people lined the streets of Paris to watch Napoleon’s funeral entourage make its way to the Dôme des Invalides where his remains still rest today beneath a gigantic sarcophagus. Such was Napoleon’s fame, that even after his death and second burial, sculptures, paintings and other likenesses of the man continued to be made.
The present terracotta almost certainly represents the Emperor on the island of St. Helena. In many respects his pose compares with a later painting by the Austrian artist Felicien baron de Myrbach-Rheinfeld showing Napoleon dictating his memories at St. Helena. Among other similar representations of the Emperor on St. Helena, one should cite one modelled by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux circa 1860-70, numerous Capodimonte porcelain figurines, a later and more monumental statue by Daniel Chester French made for the World’s Fair at St Louis in 1904, as well as Paul Delaroche’s oil study for an unfinished painting of the Emperor seated on a rocky outcrop on the island (c. 1855-56, British Royal Collection). Here he is portrayed seated on a klismos chair which, with its outward splayed legs and straight back, was a piece of furniture inspired by ancient Greek prototypes. Indeed, it was ancient Greek and Roman designs that inspired much of the Empire style. Beneath Napoleon’s chair is a pile of books to denote him as a man of literature and culture.
Although Napoleon has been a common subject for artists, this dynamic portrayal of him appears to be unique. As such it is considered to be a study for a larger marble or bronze statue that, like Delaroche’s painting, was probably never taken to fruition. Like many images of both the young and older Napoleon, the model shows the Emperor with his hand across his chest, tucked away from view. Images of the Emperor in a similar pose include Jacques Louis David’s famous portrait of Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, (1812; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), which shows the Emperor with his right hand tucked into his waistcoat. Far from being a sign of defeat or any impediment, this particular pose was rooted in history to signify gentlemanly restraint and was often associated with nobility. Such a pose stems back to ancient Greece and Rome, when the famed orator Aeschines of Macedon claimed that restricting the movement of one’s hand was the proper way to speak in public. It may also have been that the French actor Talma, who reportedly trained Napoleon in Imperial etiquette, may have been familiar with such teaching and thus encouraged the Emperor to take on such a stance.
As testimony to its importance, this dynamic terracotta model was, until recently, owned by the esteemed Parisian art dealer and collector François Hayem, whose eye for beauty and authenticity is well known. Among many positions, he has acted as an official expert at the CNES and at major antiques fairs such as Brafa, the Biennale (created under the leadership of André Malraux in 1962), FabParis and Fine Art Paris, Namur and others. He represents the fourth family generation of antique dealers beginning with his great-grandfather who worked as a dealer near Nancy; his grandfather then traded in antiques in Nancy, and finally his father opened up an antiques gallery in Paris on rue Bonaparte. After leaving school aged thirteen, François Hayem began working on rue Voltaire, at the Puces de Saint-Ouen with his father, although their relationship was not close. In 1976, following military service, he was established at 35, rue de Lille and then after a few years moved to 21, rue du Bac, before locating himself close by, to his final destination at 13, rue du Bac. Whilst works of art from the eighteenth century was his main focus of expertise and interest, François Hayem has dealt in a wide and eclectic variety of furniture, clocks, objets d’art, paintings and sculptures from many different periods and countries of origin. When it came to selecting what to buy, his premise has always been to choose an object on account of its beauty and quality. It is therefore no surprise that his collection included this wonderful and rare likeness of Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Terracotta Sculpture Empire