- Extended Catalogue Entry
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
Sitterback to top
- Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821), Emperor of France 1804-14. Sitter associated with 87 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846), History painter and diarist. Artist 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'.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Holmes, Richard; Crane, David; Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantics and Revolutionaries: Regency portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, 2002, p. 109
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 452
Events of 1830back to top
Current affairsGeorge 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 scienceLiverpool 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.