Napoleon at Jena

I am fascinated with Napoleon Bonaparte.

The battle of Jena and Auerstedt was fought on October 14, 1806. It was one of Napoleon’s masterstrokes of military genius.  His victory established him to demi-god status in his native France.  In the events leading up to this battle, Napoleon had seized the initiative, striking the kingdom of Prussia before they had time to launch an offensive.  His carefully coordinated maneuvers had placed his generals within supporting distance of each other, enabling him to rapidly adjust as the tactical situation unfolded.  Contrasted with the complicated organization of the Prussian army, who in some cases had multiple generals occupying the same position, Napoleon’s command structure was simple and efficient.  As a result, Napoleon soundly defeated a Prussian army almost twice the size of his own — defeating 120,000 with his 67,000.

It is no wonder his troops worshiped him.  Especially Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.  The Imperial Guard were under the immediate command of Napoleon himself, allowing him to freely deploy his trusted guard whenever and wherever he felt it was absolutely necessary.  They were fiercely loyal to him.

I’ve wanted to try to paint my own military art for several years now.  I recently found this rendition of “Napoleon reviewing his Imperial Guard at Jena”, painted by Horace Vernet and decided it was the scene I wanted to portray.  It took me several months but I finally finished my copy using hobby store acrylics.  I’m not sure it’s legal to do this.  Please don’t turn me in.

I love this scene — it shows the Emperor himself in the forefront, taken aback by the audacity and utter devotion of one member of the Guard, who cries out, “vive le emperor!”  To Napoleon’s immediate left is Berthier, his methodical chief of staff, and further to the left is Joachim Murat, the daring and charismatic cavalry commander.  The smoke of battle can be seen in the valley before them.

My painting is nowhere close to matching Vernet’s realism, warmth, and attention to detail.  But I like it.  I think I’ll hang it on my office wall.

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