DAVID, Jacques-Louis
(b. 1748, Paris, d. 1825, Bruxelles)

Study for the Distribution of the Eagle Standards

Pen, black ink, grey wash and white highlights, 181 x 290 mm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Almost as soon as the Consecration was finished, David began work on his second huge Napoleonic painting, The Distribution of the Eagle Standards, which he completed in November 1810.

The event had taken place three days after the consecration, on 5 December 1804, when, in an obvious imitation of the standards of the imperial Roman legions, Napoleon presented the army regiments and the National Guard of the 108 departments of France with their own Eagle standards.

Although The Distribution of the Eagle Standards demonstrated fervent patriotism and devotion, there is also a less appealing side to the imagery. Just as the Napoleonic Empire created a model to inspire twentieth-century dictators, David's paintings for the emperor provided artistic examples for their commemoration. Indeed, it later needed only a small leap of the imagination to turn such ideas into fascist and totalitarian art, and we are also reminded of the stage-managed propaganda of Hitler's Nuremberg rallies held between 1933 and 1938.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.