The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Napoléon Bonaparte ('Napoléon on St Helena')

1 portrait matching 'haydon napoleon'

© National Portrait Gallery, London

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Buy a print Buy a greetings card Make a donation Close
  • Buy a print
  • Buy greetings card
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

Napoléon Bonaparte ('Napoléon on St Helena')

by Benjamin Robert Haydon
oil on canvas, before 1846, based on a work of 1830
30 in. x 25 in. (762 mm x 631 mm)
Transferred from National Gallery, 1994
Primary Collection
NPG 6266

Sitterback to top

  • Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821), Emperor of France 1804-14. Sitter associated with 91 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), History painter and diarist. Artist or producer associated with 34 portraits, Sitter in 10 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Haydon was a great admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte. He painted dozens of pictures of him, bought his death mask and tried on one of the emperor's hats, which, to his delight, fitted exactly. Haydon's Bonaparte is contemplative, reflective, musing on his fortunes and misfortunes, the phenomenal energy stilled, the glory faded. This is one of 23 recorded replicas and variants listed by Haydon. His first Napoleon picture was painted for Thomas Kearsey in 1829 and was exhibited at the Western Exchange in 1830 as Napoleon Musing After Sunset. A whole-length version entitled Napoleon Musing at St Helena was commissioned by Sir Robert Peel. Others include Napoleon Meditating at Marengo and Napoleon Contemplating his Future Grave. In 1831, a year of great civil unrest in Britain, William Wordsworth wrote to Haydon of this work, 'If I can command my thoughts I will write something about your Picture, in prose for the Muse has forsaken me - being scared away by the villainous aspect of the Times'.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 6265: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington ('The Duke of Wellington Surveying the Field of Waterloo') (companion portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

Placesback to top

Events of 1830back to top

Current affairs

George IV dies at Windsor on 26 June; William IV succeeds to the throne.
Duke of Wellington resigns as Prime Minister to be succeeded by Earl Grey.
'Captain Swing' disturbances among agricultural districts in southern England. Taking their name from a mythical leader, hundreds of labourers break the threshing machines that threaten their winter employment.

Art and science

Liverpool and Manchester Railway opens; MP William Huskisson is run down by a train and killed at the inaugural ceremony.
William Cobbett publishes Rural Rides; a nostalgic tribute to the English countryside which expresses dismay at the sweeping changes taking place.


July Revolution in France overthrows the Bourbon dynasty. Charles X goes into exile in England and Louis Philippe, Duc d'Orleans is proclaimed King by the Chamber of Deputies who fear European opposition to the declaration of a second Republic.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

Martin Hopkinson

16 November 2017, 21:03

Was this painted c. 1844 in connection with the exhibition in the British Institution that year of Haydon's huge ' Napoleon musing at St Helena' as no 380 . It was 10 ft 6 in x 8 ft 9 in
The proper title of your picture is surely that

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.

Do, draw and make!

Do, draw and make!

From building dens to food faces – enjoy our Playful Portraits activities and find out about some brilliant people!

Get Creative

Healthcare Heroes

Activities for children and families inspired by three healthcare heroes from our Collection.

Learn together

Learning resources

Downloadable and web based resources to support learning at home linked to art, history, citizenship and literacy.

Get learning