Napoleon on His Imperial Throne by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres


To the surprise of many in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte successfully ascended to the Imperial throne after distinguishing himself through his military successes in connection to the conflicts that resulted from the French Revolution. Though ironic, the efforts to create a government in France that reflected its people resulted in the removal of a king and the installment of an Emperor in his place. In an act of some self-interest, Napoleon consolidated power in the country by essentially crowning himself with two crowns. The first is a golden laurel wreath, similar to the one worn by Julius Caesar, see in the painting below, symbolizing victory, peace, and civic virtue. The second was a replica of Charlemagne's crown, an icon of the Emperor of fhe Holy Roman Empire, a position that Napoleon now claimed as his own. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres captures this consolidation through various symbols present in his painting. 

Reflection Questions

  1. What do you think is the main message of this painting? What elements transmit it?
  2. How is this painting a calculated negotiation of freedom and law? 
  3. How does the painting invite the viewer to interpret its various symbols?

This content is provided to you freely by BYU Open Learning Network.

Access it online or download it at