Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Neoclassicism (pt. 9)

It is no surprise, then, that Napoleon commissioned David to paint a commemorative work depicting the emperor's own coronation.  Here is an indelible scene: Napoleon, who had promised to serve the people, crowning himself emperor.  The man would go on to conquer half of Europe and become one of history's most infamous dictators, but here we see this brief moment of time before all of that happens; foreboding, isn't it?  The image of a man crowning himself is perhaps an ominous image, but it is definitely one for us to remember when considering the big political questions of our time.  It's a magnificent painting, over thirty feet long and twenty feet high.  And the artist gives no small attention to detail in this enormously painted scene which is so full of radiant colors and brilliantly clad courtiers.  Jacques-Louis David's painting of Napoleon's coronation is one of my favorite paintings, so I could spend a long time discussing it—the abundance of interesting characters in the scene, the significance of each individual's placement in the scene and what they're holding or doing, the artistic approach to producing the scene's atmosphere, the colors used, which figures are painted taller than others and why, facial expressions, hidden persons in the crowd, et cetera—but for now we must keep going.

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