|"Le Sacre de Napoléon", 1807. The painting contains well over one hundred figures, each of them an actual portrait.|
|The painting was put on display in the Louvre three separate times between 1808 and 1810, the public's interest was so great.|
Officially titled "The Consecration of the Emperor Napoléon I and Coronation of the Empress Joséphine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on 2 December 1804", but commonly known as the "Coronation of Napoleon", Jacques-Louis David's monumental canvas - approximately twenty by thirty-two feet - was finally completed in November of 1807, nearly three years after the solemn event itself. It was quickly sent to be put on display in the Louvre, where the public came in droves to view it. Louis-Léopold Boilly, the great chronicler of Parisian life at the turn of the nineteenth century, commemorated the contemporary enthusiasm for the great commemorative work.
|"The Public Viewing David's 'Coronation' at the Louvre", 1810. By comparison, Boilly's painting is a mere 24 by 32 inches.|
|One could obtain a guide identifying the important personages in David's painting. Some of the figures above are consulting their guides.|
|The artist scattered portraits of real figures among the crowd, including his own; Boilly is the grey-haired fellow in the group at far right.|
|David's masterpiece - still drawing crowds - as it hangs in the Louvre.|
Though this painting is commonly understood to represent and is usually referred to as the coronation of Napoléon, it isn't. David had originally planned to show that extraordinary Corsican at the very moment of his coronation - when he unexpectedly snatched the crown from the Pope and crowned himself - but later chose to portray the newly-minted emperor in the act of crowning his beloved and soon-to-be-ex- wife. At any rate, Joséphine is the heart of this vast work, visually, and the graceful, bejeweled Empress is both literally and figuratively the point on which the whole composition is centered.
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