Trompette à cheval de la Garde impériale de Napoléon (1813-1814)

Géricault, Théodore (1791-1824)

Trompette à cheval de la Garde impériale de Napoléon (Mounted Trumpeters of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard)
Oil on canvas, 60.4 x 49.6 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

Between 1812 and 1814, while Napoleon‘s armies waged war across Europe, Théodore Gericault began a series of small canvases depicting Napoleonic cavalry officers. These paintings provided Géricault with the opportunity to explore two of the subjects that he loved best: the horse and the pomp of military life. The Trumpeters of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard is part of this series. Géricault does not portray an individual, but rather a romantic ideal of the dashing soldier. Though the depiction of the officers suggests actual portraits, the painting is an invention. The painting’s composition is based upon strong visual contrasts. Géricault used short, rapid brushstrokes to define the central figures in the foreground while using broader, more sweeping strokes to create a neutral background. He further distinguished the figures from the background through his use of color. The background is in dark tones, while the figures are in warm, vibrant tones, that cause them to advance toward the viewer. The brightly colored parade uniform gives the painting a sensuous appeal and provides visual unity as it is repeated across the canvas. Produced during the height of war, the artist makes no reference to its hardships or defeat; instead he creates a romantic image of military grandeur. (NGA)

See also:

• Napoléon I (1769-1821)