Baron Antoine-Jean GROS
Paris, 1771 – Meudon (Hauts-de-Seine), 1835
Joachim Murat (1767–1815), King of Naples
Salon of 1812
Joachim Murat (1767-1815), a cavalry officer, married Napoleon’s sister Caroline in 1800. He participated in many of the emperor’s military campaigns and rose to the rank of marshal in 1804. Four years later, Napoleon designated him “King of the Two Sicilies” (he actually reigned only in Naples). Murat was admired for his handsome appearance and his flamboyant uniforms. Marshal, king of Naples: in the set of Napoleonian chess, Murat is the rider, splendid warlike in extravagant costumes, Murat is the insane, impetuous one and unwise, Murat is the queen who needs the evidence of affection of her Master to offer all her devotion. He is treated like a pawn, placed on a throne without liberty of action. From there, a treason with half-consumed, a fine tragedy in an Italian village.
Antoine-Jean Gros’s parents were miniature painters. He entered Jacques-Louis David’s studio in 1785 and then trained at the Académie Royale. After losing the Prix de Rome competition and suffering his father’s death and bankruptcy, Gros turned to portrait painting for income. With David’s assistance, he went to northern Italy in 1793, where he studied art by Peter Paul Rubens and the Venetians. There he met Napoleon, who would become the subject of some of Gros’s most celebrated paintings.
Between 1804 and 1808 he labored on three heroic paintings featuring Napoleon. They caused a sensation, and Gros became France’s most honored painter. Gros’s vibrant use of color was much admired: “You are not sufficiently concerned with color, my dear sirs,” he told his pupils. “Yes, it’s color which gives poetry, life and charm-no painting can come to life without it.”
After the Battle of Waterloo and David’s exile, Gros worked for the new king and took over David’s large studio, which became Paris’s mecca for advanced painting. Although Gros inspired Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix with his dramatic subject matter, bold technique, and use of color, he shifted his style toward a more restrained Neoclassicism. His late classicist works-depicting ancient myths rather than creating Napoleonic ones as he had once done-evoked adverse criticism, and he drowned himself in the Seine.