Napoleon, who comes, like a new Trajan of a new Christ, to bestow mercy, tolerance, and wisdom upon the enemy troops
–Robert Rosenblum, American Art Historian and Curator
Figure 1: The Battle of Eylau, Antoine-Jean Gros, 1807
Case Study Analysis: Antoine-Jean Gros’s The Battle of Eylau
Ian G. Tholen
Artists and Images of War (ARTH-6601-A)
Hawai’i Pacific University (HPU)
20 September 2011
THE BATTLE OF EYLAU: ITS CONCEPTION AND COMPOSITION
Antoine-Jean Gros's complex and often written-about painting The Battle of Eylau has been characterized as being “central to the development of French Romanticism and is one of the most important works commissioned by Napoleon” (O’Brien, 2003) during his campaign to utilize the visual arts for cultural and political propaganda (2003).
Antoine-Jean Gros’s The Battle of Eylau was entered into a widely-publicized competition of time in March 1807, less than a month following the terrible battle which resulted in more than 50,000 French and Russian victims (Siegfried, 1993). As part of a public multifaceted propaganda war art piece underlining a hard fought French victory, “the principal purpose of Gros’s winning art piece was to express Napoleon's emotions in the face of such carnage” (Prendergast, 1997). In so much that, “If all the kings of the earth could view such a spectacle, they would be less keen on wars and conquest” (Rosenblaum, 1974), Napoleon himself was said to have declared. Gros, “as the winner of the competition, it was said that it was here in this painting that he had reached the summit of his art, elevating history painting to a level never equaled, before or since” (1997).
Prendergast explores battle painting during the Napoleonic era and The Battle of Eylau (in particular) with great reflection describing the panoramic painting as lying “Under a leaden sky, Napoleon’s face washed out but marked with immense pity, Napoleon crosses the battlefield dotted...