Napoleon Crossing the Alps

Art Analysis Napoleon de Bonaparte: Napoleon Crossing the Alps1 (napoleon.org) Artist: Jacques-Louis David Type: Oil on Canvas
Year: 1800
Location: Château de Malmaison, Rueil-Malmaison
When looking at the Napoleon Crossing the Alps painting one cannot help but immediately notice the foreground, the male figure sitting on a rearing horse. Overall it is a magnificent sight, an elegant looking Arabian horse carrying the dashing rider whose golden cloak is swirling in the wind directing him towards his destiny. The look of determination on the riders face, finger pointing to the direction hes going up. Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the greatest generals in history. His smart war strategies and tactics made him one of the greatest war generals in history. There are other soldiers, probably accompanying Bonaparte on his journey, but they are in the background to the bottom left. Opposite towards the bottom right the three colors represent the French flag. Above Bonapartes head is the intermingling of the sky and the mountain, which creates a unique fusion praising the great man. A closer look reveals details. there is writing saying Bonaparte Hannibal towards the bottom left.
The source of light in the painting is the sun, the universal light and illuminates the foreground even more. The background is not truly dark but the fact that Jacques-Louis David has illustrated the horse and the rider in such a way that dominates the whole painting, which is the whole point. Bright colors and dark shades help achieve this. The effect created by the color and brushstrokes indicate roundness and depth that is evident in the curves of the horse and the folding of the cloak fluttering in the wind.
The use of colors highlights the leading figure glorifying Bonaparte, depicting his greatness. The oil painting truly captures his greatness. It is as if he is put under the spotlight. Especially when the background is a little blurry which creates the effect of distance, and gives brings horse rider even closer to the viewer. The lines in the painting converge towards the legs of the horse. As a result, the viewer needs to look up towards Bonapartes face. This illusion creates dominance and power. His war victories and smart tactics have won him several accolades, and this painting is a depiction of his achievements, elegance, and his grace.
Jacques-Louis David had a strange relationship with Bonaparte but by painting such elegant portraits he helped the general in his cause (Lacaille, 2013). The painting bears meaning and has specific context relative to the events of the 18th century. In one of his war journeys he had to cross Saint Bernard Pass on his way to Italy. The word ‘Hannibal’ in the painting refers to one of the greatest military minds that ever lived. Hannibal also crossed the Alps to fight his Roman foe. The mentioning of Hannibal means that now it is Bonaparte’s time, as he will also write his name along with Hannibal’s.
David’s work has been archived among the most famous historical paintings. Besides glorifying Bonaparte his painting was also war message, and attempt to announce the general’s victory.
Reference
Lacaille, F. “Bonaparte Crossing the Great Bernard Pass”. Napoleon. 2013. N.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.