Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne, 1806
Oil on canvas, 101.97 x 63.78 inches [259 x 162 cm]
Musee de L'Armee, Paris
The novelty of this portrait - Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne by Ingres lies first of all in the composition, which is quite different from the traditional portrait of a monarch. Some of the drawings still preserved in Ingreís museum in Montauban show his interest for Byzantine diptych and Middle Ages seals bearing an image of a ruling king in all his glory.
No matter where Ingres sought his inspiration, there is a tendency of breaking from the tradition of the official portrait and of looking for a new image of imperial power in his work via archaic devices.
The painting - Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne exhibited at the Salon failed to bring the success that the author was expecting. Quite the contrary, critics mocked the Byzantine splendor, primitivism and gothic style of the portrait. the reaction of Napoleon to a depiction of himself in such a way is still unknown.
Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne by Ingres was not copied nor were engravings from it made. After the Salon it was taken to the Legislative Corps and placed close to the portrait of the empress by Letier. In 1832 the portrait moved to the depository of the Hotel des Invalides. Nowadays the Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne is considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of 19th-century portraiture.