So in honor of the birthday of the man who stormed onto the pages of history and completely re-made France and Europe according to his own wishes, I'm doing a little celebratory post for Monsieur Napoleon Bonaparte, or Nabulio Buonaparte! Today would have been his 242nd birthday, if he were still alive (and I'm sure he wishes that he was). Napoleon could never have imagined how immortal his image, laws, and reputation became--how many devoted fans he had, even amongst all his enemies. He was not perfect, in fact he was kind of a jerk, but he was brilliant, knew how to cut to the chase, and didn't buy anybody's crap. You either loved him or you hated him. The civil code, which he created, is STILL used in modern-day France. His story is the stuff of movies and soap operas--his spectacular rise to fame, fortune, and glory, and his unavoidable downfall through his own weakness. Personally, I adore him, his story, and the age he created-the 'Age of Empire'.
This is a marvelous portrait of Bonaparte, done by Baron Gerard when he was still a First Consul and not yet Emperor, so therefore my best guess is around 1801-1802. He looks very, very young and vulnerable here. I've seen this portrait in the Chateau de Chantilly in France, and it gave me goosebumps! His eyes, which were a light grey color, jump out of the painting and seem to follow you. Those eyes communicate everything you need to know to understand Bonaparte--his insecurity, his fear of not succeeding, and his anger at being born into a family with no money and little connections. Those frustrations and insecurities are behind all of the great man's actions.