• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 11932

    Revolution

    13 April 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 27

    A TINTED PLASTER BUST OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE AS FIRST CONSUL

    BY JOSEPH CHINARD (LYON 1756-1813), 1801

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A TINTED PLASTER BUST OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE AS FIRST CONSUL
    BY JOSEPH CHINARD (Lyon 1756-1813), 1801
    His chest inscribed HIC EST HOMO MEDICUS LEONI, his back collar inscribed VOILA LE FRUIT DE SON GENIE, the base signed Chinard de l'institut nationale de L'athénee de Lyon le 24 frimaire an [I] O (15 December, 1801)
    30 in. (76.2 cm.) high, overall


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Modeled in 1801, this portrait bust by sculptor Joseph Chinard captures a turning point in history—Napoleon Bonaparte just as he nears the apex of his extraordinary reign. At age thirty-two the sitter had just returned a hero from his campaigns in Egypt, engineered a coup establishing himself as First Consul of the Republic, and had that year signed the “Concordat of 1801”, thereby restoring the Catholic Church’s religious privileges while keeping the lands seized by the Revolution.

    These successes, and those preceding them, are emblazoned across Bonaparte’s chest. His sash is inscribed with the names of his various victorious battles, each encircled by a laurel wreath, while his back collar reads VOILA LE FRUIT DE SON GENIE (“This is the fruit of his genius”). These messages of strength are accompanied by Napoleon’s distinct iconography, such as the “B” for Bonaparte that appears to the right side of his chest, which was later to become a leitmotif throughout his Empire. Similarly, the Latin phrase HIC EST HOMO MEDICUS LEONI (“This man was a lion”) appears above a bas-relief on the socle depicting an allegory of a hurt lion licking the hands of the First Consul, a reference to the weakened nation that is now in the capable hands of Napoleon. In less than three years from when this bust was modeled, Napoleon would crown himself Emperor and the world would never be the same.

    There are eight known versions of the present bust. The other identical plaster versions of Chinard’s Napoleon are in the prestigious public collections of the Château de Malmaison, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Hôtel de Ville of Lyon (which was commissioned in 1801 by General Duhesme has since been lost), and Musée d’Art at d’Histoire of Geneva (acquired in 1802); as of 1999 the other three were in separate private Genevan collections. The final eight bust was a gift from Chinard to the Académie de Lyon which has since been lost. The present bust is assuredly one of the last four stated.

    Provenance

    with Fabius Frères, Paris, where acquired by the present owner.


    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the second Latin translation should read: This man is a doctor of a lion and that there is additional Literature and other information added to the footnote online that is missing from the printed catalogue and, finally, that there was a marble and a terracotta version of this bust.


    Literature

    S. Lami, Dictionnaire des Sculpteurs de l'École Française au dix-huitième siècle, Paris, I, 1910, reprint 1970, p. 208.

    COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:
    G. Hubert and G Ledoux-Lebard, Napoléon: portraits contemporains bustes et statues, Paris, 1999, pp. 48-54.
    The Arts of France, from Francois Ier to Napoleon Ier, A Centennial Celebration of Wildenstein’s Presence in New York, 26 Oct. – 6 Jan., 2006, n. 154, pp. 342-4.