When the early works of the Impressionists were routinely rejected by the Paris Salon, Ernest Meissonier commanded extravagant prices for small portraits executed in minute detail, making him wealthy enough to afford an opulent estate just outside Paris. Ambitious to secure his reputation as the greatest painter of his day, Meissonier turned to painting historical subjects, and in 1863 he began work on Friedland, a large canvas commemorating Napoleon’s 1807 military victory on Prussian soil.1 In the painting Napoleon, seated on a white horse, accepts a salute from his triumphant cavalry. Fanatical about historical accuracy, Meissonier borrowed the actual saddle used by Napoleon and even had a tailor make an exact copy of the coat Napoleon had worn.2 The painter also aimed for an absolutely correct representation of the charging cavalry. Before the advent of stop-action photography in the 1870s, no one understood how horses moved at a gallop, since the naked eye can’t process so fast a motion. Even the equine anatomy courses Meissonier had taken at a veterinary school were no help here. But Meissonier was obsessed and he had resources. On his estate he built a miniature railroad track and installed a small carriage.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Synecdoche and Metonymy in Setting, Staging, and Dialogue
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number