1767-1824 • French
One of the greatest Neoclassical painters, Girodet was profoundly shaped by both his training under the great Jacques-Louis David and by the dramatic social and political upheaval brought about by the French Revolution. His wide range of subjects, unconventional interpretation of traditional themes and constant reinvention of style brought him a great deal of fame. His talent soon came to the attention of Napoleon, who commissioned a number of portraits in 1811. Like many artists during this turbulent time, Girodet accepted a number of commissions from both the Republic and the Empire. This was not always to Girodet’s liking, and he indicated that he felt that he and his fellow artists were regimented in “les troupes napoléoniennes,” even though they wore no uniforms. However, he accepted the challenge to paint the emperor, even though it was known to be nearly impossible for an artist to get a sitting with the Napoleon, as he hated to sit still. In fact, it was common knowledge that the only way to capture Napoleon would be by sketching him while he was at lunch, at chapel or at the opera or theatre. Both his Academic training under David and his myth-making style made Girodet the ideal artist to elevate Napoleon to the level of Imperial god.