Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

This portrait of Napoleon is believed to be the model for a larger composition, now lost. After his coronation in the Cathedral of Notre Dame on December 2, 1804, portraits like this one of the emperor in his ceremonial garb were commissioned and disseminated throughout Europe. Their main purpose was to establish an iconography of the emperor’s reign, which relied on royal conventions of sovereignty stretching back to Charlemagne. These customs were known intimately to David and his students, as David had attended the coronation and composed a large-scale painting of the event over a three-year period. Though this is a study, details that are typical of David’s portraits abound here; they include the reflections in the golden orb in the emperor’s left hand and the exquisite depictions of the contrasting textures of fur, velvet, and brocade in his robe.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Jacques-Louis David, French (Paris 1748 - 1825 Brussels)
Previously attributed to Jacques-Louis David, French (Paris 1748 - 1825 Brussels)
Previously attributed to (?) Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, French (Montauban 1780 - 1867 Paris)
Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821)
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Napoléon Ier en Habits Impériaux
Alternate Title: Portrait of Napoleon I
Work Type
c. 1807
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Oil on panel
88.3 x 59.4 cm (34 3/4 x 23 3/8 in.)
framed: 106.7 x 77.5 x 7.6 cm (42 x 30 1/2 x 3 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r., in oil: L. DAVID. 1807
Sold [through David sale, A. N. Pérignon, Paris, April 17, 1826, and following days, no. 7]; to (Louis-Joseph Auguste?) Coutan, 1826, sold [through his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, March 9, 1829, no. 20]. Ambroise Firmin Didot, by 1857. Moreau Wolsey, sold [through his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 23-24, 1869, no 34]; to Richard Wallace, Paris and London, by descent; to Lady Julia Amélie Castelnau Wallace, 1890, bequest; to Sir John Murray Scott, 1897, bequest; to Josephine Victoria Sackville-West, Lady Sackville of Knowle, 1912, sold; [to Jacques Seligmann et Cie, Paris, 1913], sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York, NY, May 8, 1925, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Antoine Thomé, Vie de David, Premier Peintre de Napoleon, Baudouin Frères (Brussels, Belgium, 1826), pp. 185, 236-237

Pierre Alexandre Coupin, Essai sur J. L. David, peintre d'histoire, ancien membre de l'Institut, officier de la Legion-d'honneur, J. Renouard (Paris, France, 1827), p. 35

J. L. Jules David, Le Peintre Louis David: Souvenirs et documents inedits (Paris, France, 1880), p. 439; p. 644

Chinese Sculpture, Bronzes, Jades, Paintings and Drawings, Egyptian and Persian sculpture, Pre-Columbian art; selected from the collection of Grenville Lindall Winthrop, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1943), p. 3

Germain Seligman, Merchants of Art, exh. cat., Appleton-Century-Crofts (New York, NY, 1961), p. 149; repr. pl. 45A

Daniel Wildenstein and Guy Wildenstein, Documents Complémentaires au Catalogue de l'oeuvre de Louis David, Fondation Wildenstein (Paris, France, 1973), pp. 244 (no. 7 under doc. 2002), 249, 250? (possibly no. 6 under doc. 2087)

Philippe Bordes and Alain Pougetoux, "Les Portraits de Napoléon en habits imperiaux par Jacques-Louis David", Gazette des Beaux-Arts (July 1983 - Aug 1983), pps. 21-34; repr. fig. 8, p. 25; n. 15, 29

Antoine Schnapper and Arlette Sérullaz, ed., Jacques-Louis David, 1748-1825, exh. cat., Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 1989), repr. in b/w fig. 118, p. 433; pp. 436, 616 (in chronology)

Alain Pougetoux, "David et ses Portraits de Napoléon", Société des Amis de Malmaison Bulletin (1990), pp. 12-13

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p.104, repr. as no. 261

Dr. Christina Böttcher, Europa zur Zeit Napoleons, Zeitlupe 2, ed. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Pandel, Schroedel Verlag (Hannover, Germany, 2002), p. 54, repr. in color as fig. 54.1

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), no. 22, pp. 92-93, repr. in color

Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), no. 22, pp. 100-101, repr. in color

Philippe Bordes, Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile, exh. cat., Yale University Press (New Haven, CT and London, 2005), pp. 62-63, repr. in color as fig. 15

Susan L. Siegfried and Todd Porterfield, Staging Empire: Napoleon, Ingres, and David, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA, 2006), p. 85, repr. p. 84 as fig. 3.14

Susan L. Siegfried, Ingres: Painting Reimagined, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven, 2009), pp. 282-284, repr. in b/w p. 284 as fig. 169

Sebastian Smee, "Frame by Frame: Under History's Spell", The Boston Globe (March 1, 2011), section G, p. 3, repr.

Colleen Walsh, "Competing visions" (The Harvard Gazette, November 19, 2021),, accessed November 19, 2021

Exhibition History

Chinese sculpture, bronzes, jades, paintings and drawings, Egyptian and Persian sculpture, Pre-Columbian art : selected from the collection of Grenville Lindall Winthrop, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/01/1943 - 02/28/1944

France and the Portrait, 1799-1870, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/03/1994 - 01/29/2002

A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 03/15/2003 - 05/26/2003; National Gallery, London, 06/25/2003 - 09/14/2003; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004

For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004

32Q: 2200 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 11/14/2022

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

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