GUÉRIN, Pierre-Narcisse
(b. 1774, Paris, d. 1833, Roma)

Napoleon Pardoning the Rebels at Cairo

Oil on canvas, 365 x 500 cm
Musée National du Château, Versailles

Guérin's Napoleon Pardoning the Rebels at Cairo has a grain of truth, since Napoleon had shown clemency to the Mamluk leaders of the 1798 rising - but only after the slaughter of most of the insurgents. Guérin burnishes Napoleon's myth subtly, placing his hero to the rear and rather dwarfed by those he has pardoned, in a sort of inverted modesty. If the rebels are allowed dignity in defeat, it is to emphasize the magnanimity of the victor.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 51 minutes):
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) in E Flat major op. 55 (1803)