Napoléon Bonaparte ('Napoléon on St Helena')

© National Portrait Gallery, London

4 Likes 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

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

On display in Room 10 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery

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.

Comments back to top

We are currently unable to accept new comments, but any past comments are available to read below.

If you need information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service . Please note that we cannot provide valuations. You can buy a print or greeting card of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at around £6 for unframed prints, £16 for framed prints. If you wish to license an image, select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Use this image button, or contact our Rights and Images service. 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