Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Hippolyte Delaroche

Napoleon Crossing the Alps is an oil painting on canvas by French artist Hippolyte Delaroche during 1848-1850. It depicts the portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte leading his army through the Alps on a mule in the spring of 1800 during the War of the Second Coalition.

In 1800, Hippolyte Delaroche led his army cross the Saint-Bernard Pass, attempting to surprise the Austrian army in Italy. He and his army defeated Austrian with a force inferior in number, known as the Battle of Marengo, determining his triumph in the battle field in Italy, which later increased his reputations and status and helped him reach the top of the power. There are many artworks that depict this historical event, most of which beautify the images of Napoleon. One of them is the more well-known painting by Jacques Louise David, the official painter of Napoleon, by which this painting was inspired. In David painting, Napoleon is ridding a big white horse in an exquisite uniform with a red cape, showing a typical idealized hero image.

On contrary, Delarocha painted a more realistic portrait of Napoleon. He drew out an ordinary Napoleon, cold and downcast. Napoleon is ridding a brown mule rather than a horse. He dressed in a gray coat, putting his right hand on his stomach, showing a tired face. It shows the status of Napoleon in the history, that Napoleon had a bad stomach. Napoleon was a great and powerful hero, but he was also an ordinary person who would get sick and tired.

In the history painting, Delaroche paid much attention to the details. The mule is intensely textured, making it look bristly. He also gave much detailed texture on Napoleon and the guide, especially the coat, the faces. The snow and ice on the background are whiter under the sunlight from the west, enhancing the whole painting’s lighting effect.

Napoleon crossing the Alps

Napoleon crossing the Alps


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