J. Parent (French, active circa 1810-1833) Napoléon I (1769-1821), wearing the uniform of the Chasseurs-à-Cheval, with the red ribbon and star of the Légion d'Honneur, the Iron Crown of Lombardy and the breast star of the Grand Eagle of the Légion d'Honneur
Lot 100Y
J. Parent
(French, active circa 1810-1833)
Napoléon I (1769-1821), wearing the uniform of the Chasseurs-à-Cheval, with the red ribbon and star of the Légion d'Honneur, the Iron Crown of Lombardy and the breast star of the Grand Eagle of the Légion d'Honneur
Sold for £10,800 (US$ 14,305) inc. premium

Lot Details
J. Parent (French, active circa 1810-1833)
Napoléon I (1769-1821), wearing the uniform of the Chasseurs-à-Cheval, with the red ribbon and star of the Légion d'Honneur, the Iron Crown of Lombardy and the breast star of the Grand Eagle of the Légion d'Honneur.
Signed on the obverse and dated J. Parent 1815, set into the base of a fitted read leather travelling case.
Oval, 65mm (2 9/16in) high
Provenance: Sir Guy Campbell
Fine Art Society, London, 1892, 25 gns.
The Charles E. Lees Collection, Bonhams, 20 November 1997, lot 55
Exhibited: Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1889, case II, no.30 (lent by Sir Guy Campbell)
Fine Arts Society, London, 1892, no.227


  • The present work displays the influence of Parent's contemporary, Jean Baptiste Isabey, who painted numerous portraits of this type of Napoleon, albeit with minor variations in his uniform and decorations. Examples can be found in both the Wallace Collection and the collection of the House of Orange-Nassau. See Graham Reynolds, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Miniatures, 1980, ill.p.209, nos. 185 and 186 and K. Schaffers-Bodenhausen and M. Tiethoff-Spliethoof, The Portrait Miniatures in the Collections of the House of Orange-Nassau, 1993, ill.p.237, no.245.

    Napoléon entered the French military academy at Brienne-le-Chateau in 1779. Five years later, he progressed to the Ecole Militaire in Paris and from there went on to join an artillery regiment, serving in Valence, Drome and Auxonne. Nurturing ferocious ambition and an abiding faith in his destiny, Napoléon weathered the upheavals of the Revolution and was awarded the command of the French Army in Italy. There he forced Austria and her allies to make peace with the fledgling Republic. He then turned his attentions to Egypt and a bold (but ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to strike at British trade routes with India. The destruction of the French fleet by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile was a serious set-back to this scheme and, for a time, he and his troops were stranded in North Africa.

    Back in Paris, Napoléon married Josephine Beauharnais, the elegant widow of a guillotined nobleman, and was able to capitalise on her connections with the unpopular Directoire government. On 18 Brumaire 1799, he staged a coup d'état and established himself as First Consul - in effect, the most powerful man in France. Five years later, he had himself crowned Emperor by Pope Pius VII in a spectacular ceremony at Notre-Dame. Over the course of the following decade, he came to dominate continental Europe through a series of incredible military victories. His dynastic ambitions also showed signs of realisation - his siblings were installed as the rulers of Spain, Holland, Tuscany, Naples and Westphalia whilst his friend and marshal, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, became King of Sweden. At home the emperor instituted extensive reforms, overseeing the centralisation of government, the creation of the Bank of France, the establishment of the Code Napoléon and the reinstatement of Roman Catholicism as the state religion. Only his longing for an heir remained unfulfilled. Despite the love he still felt for Josephine, she appeared unable to conceive and he felt compelled to divorce her, taking as his new wife the daughter of the Austrian Emperor Francis II, Marie-Louise. In 1811, she gave birth to a son who was styled as the King of Rome.

    In June 1812, Napoléon launched an invasion of Russia - an error which saw the death of tens of thousands of his troops. From that point on, his luck turned. A European coalition, consisting of the forces of Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, Spain, Sweden, Austria and Portugal invaded France and marched on Paris. In 1814, his marshals mutinied and demanded the emperor's abdication. Although he had hoped to pass the throne to his infant son, the Allies pressed for unconditional surrender and exiled Napoléon to the island of Elba. There he was forced to remain whilst France returned to Bourbon rule under Louis XVIII. However, he was determined to make one last bid for glory. Escaping from Elba in February 1815, he sailed to the mainland, where he met with wide-spread and continued support from the army and the people. The king was forced to withdraw and Napoléon reigned in Paris for a period known as the Hundred Days. He was only defeated by British and Prussian troops at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June. Although he hoped to be allowed to go into exile in England, the emperor was despatched to the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic. There he remained until his death of stomach cancer in May 1821. Buried in an unmarked tomb, his remains were exhumed in 1840 and returned to France, where they were given a state funeral, before eventually coming to rest in 1861 at Les Invalides. Even before his death, however, Bonaparte's reputation was secure. When asked who was the greatest general of the day, his arch-enemy the Duke of Wellington replied: 'In this age, in past ages, in any age - Napoléon'.
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