RUDE, François
(b. 1784, Dijon, d. 1855, Paris)

Napoleon Rising to Immortality

Bronze, width 251 cm
Parc Noirot, Fixin-lés-Dijon

Among the main works of Rude's ultimately Romantically-oriented late work is this astonishing monument. It shows a rejuvenated Napoleon, 'waking to immortality' from his death-bed on St Helena, with eyes closed and laurel wreath on his head rising out of the funeral pall. Commissioned by Captain Noisot of the small corps of grenadiers Napoleon had been allowed to retain during his first period of exile on Elba in 1814, this was finished in 1847.

Already in 1840 Louis-Philippe had consented to the return of Napoleon's body for a state burial in Les Invalides, thus officially incorporating him into French history. With its laurel wreath and epaulettes, and its expiring eagle breaking its chains, Rude's conception is heroic, like the apotheoses by which Girodet or Ingres had immortalized the emperor's dead soldiers.

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