Display | Jacques-Louis David’s ‘Napoleon’

Posted in exhibitions, lectures (to attend) by Editor on July 10, 2016

Now on view at AIC:

Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon
Art Institute of Chicago, 28 May — 9 October 2016


Jacques-Louis David, The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812 (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art)

The dominant French painter of the late 18th and early 19th century, Jacques-Louis David responded with brilliant artistry to the extraordinary events unfolding during the French Revolution and its aftermath. With his painting The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, David created the quintessential image of the legendary leader as a figure of deliberation and action. At the time, Napoleon’s empire was at its height—he had not yet led his army on the disastrous invasion of Russia—and David himself had referred to Napoleon as “the man of the century.” For his painting of this exalted figure, David drew on the tradition of the state portrait, a full-length standing representation that had served as the public image of a ruler since the Renaissance, but he brought new life to the conventional type by placing Napoleon in the foreground and framing him with details that tell a story. David described that story in this way: “Having passed the night composing his Napoleonic code, [the emperor] only realizes that it is dawn from the guttering candles that are about to go out. The clock has just struck four in the morning. With that, he rises from his desk to strap on his sword and review his troops.”

The loan of this great painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., provides occasion to highlight related paintings, works on paper, and sculpture in the Art Institute’s own collection. Featured objects include a rarely exhibited sketchbook of studies for another renowned Napoleonic painting by David, The Distribution of the Eagle Standards, which records the ceremonial oath-taking of the generals and officers of the imperial army following Napoleon’s coronation in 1804. This original sketchbook is displayed near an interactive digital reconstruction that allows visitors to turn the book’s pages.

In addition to the NGA loan, the display includes Marie Denise Villers’s 1801 portrait of Charlotte du Val d’Ognes, on loan from The Met (though I’ve been unable to find any mention of it online). The digitized sketchbook is remarkable, but I’m not sure why it’s not also available through the AIC website. CH

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

Lecture | Napoleon, and the Legacy of the Storming of the Bastille
Fullerton Hall, Art Institute of Chicago, 14 July 2016, 2:00pm

In honor of Bastille Day, this lecture interweaves a discussion of Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon with the history of the Bastille as event, monument, and symbol. Registration required—register today!





At Sotheby’s | English Watches

Posted in Art Market by Editor on July 10, 2016

Press release (8 July 2016) from Sotheby’s, via Art Daily:

Celebration of the English Watch, Part II
John Harrison’s Enduring Discovery, Sale #L16055
Sotheby’s London, 7 July 2016


John Arnold, silver consular cased pocket chronometer, 1781.

At Sotheby’s London, auction records for watches made by two of England’s most important watchmakers were set when a silver pocket chronometer by John Arnold (Lot 38) sold for £557,000 ($722,318) and a gold pocket chronometer by Thomas Earnshow (Lot 39) fetched £305,000 ($395,524).

Made in 1781 and estimated at £130,000–150,000, the large silver consular cased pocket chronometer by John Arnold is remarkable in that it has survived in its completely original state. Arnold introduced the ‘double S’ balance in 1780. The ‘S’ sections of the balance were shaped bi-metallic bars that were designed to overcome the changing elasticity of the balance spring and expansion of the balance’s rim. The watch sold yesterday is the only example of a watch by Arnold which survives without restoration and with its original case, dial, pivoted detent and ‘double S’ balance.

Thomas Earnshaw invented the spring detent escapement and Thomas Wright, watchmaker to King George III, agreed to pay for the patent in his name. Dating from 1784, the gold pair cased pocket chronometer in yesterday’s sale was the only surviving example of a watch made strictly to Wright’s patent details (est. £250,000–300,000).

The sale included some of the finest precision timekeepers of the English horological Golden Age. It was the second part in a series of sales entitled Celebration of the English Watch, featuring the most important collection of English watches in private hands.