The present drawing is a study for the figure of Emperor Napoléon I for the large painting of the Apotheosis of Napoléon I, painted in 1853 for the ceiling of the Salon de l'Empereur at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris. The painting was destroyed by fire during the insurrection of the Commune in Paris; a carefully executed modello, however, is now in the Musée Carnavalet in Paris (fig. 1), G. Wildenstein, The paintings of J. A. D. Ingres, London, 1956, no. 271, pl. 100. An oil sketch is in the Museum of Châteauroux (now on deposit at the Louvre), and a highly finished watercolour is at the Louvre (inv. RF. 3608, P. Condon et al., Ingres, In Pursuit of Perfection: The Art of J.-A.-D. Ingres, exhib. cat., The J.B. Speed Art Museum, 1983, p. 117, figs. 2 and 3). Although Ingres received the commission from the government on 2 March 1853, there is some evidence that he had already begun the preparatory work earlier. According to the contract, the picture, for which Ingres received 60.000 Francs, had to be finished the same year, a stipulation that the artist met. The commission further included the representation of eight major European cities conquered by Napoléon: Rome, Vienna, Milan, Naples, Moscow, Cairo, Berlin, and Madrid.
The Apotheosis was painted in a studio which was put at Ingres' disposal by his friend, the engraver Edouard Gatteaux, in the rue de Lille, Paris. In February 1854, Emperor Napoléon III and Empress Eugénie visited the artist's studio to see the painting which met with their approval. In 1855 the painting had a triumphant success at the Exposition Universelle.
Ingres' composition represents the Emperor standing in a quadriga, rising above the island of St. Helena. Fame holds a laurel wreath above the Emperor's head, while Victory guides the direction of the chariot. On the lower left, the composition includes the mourning figure of France, while Nemesis, behind the deserted throne, expels the personifications of Crime and Anarchy, on the right. The iconography of the painting is of a highly political nature. Prince Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been elected President of the second Republic from 1848-52, was proclaimed Emperor under the name of Emperor Napoléon III in December 1852, only a few months before the painting was commissioned.
Several preparatory drawings for the figure of Napoléon are preserved at the Musée Ingres in Montauban. Early sketches suggest that Ingres first planned to depict the Emperor frontally, standing on a quadriga while holding the sceptre in his right hand, G. Vigne, Dessins d'Ingres. Catalogue raisonné des dessins du musée de Montauban, Paris, 1995, nos. 2170 and 2172, illustrated. Another sketch shows Napoléon holding the palm of victory, instead of the sceptre, and the globe in his hands, Vigne, op. cit., no. 2181, illustrated. The artist, however, must have soon decided to depict the Emperor turned to the left as several other studies and the compostional sketches reveal, Vigne, op. cit., nos. 2183, 2184, 2186, illustrated. A re-worked tracing of a counterproof of a drawing of the nude figure of Napoléon from the Montauban museum is particularly interesting in the context of the present sheet (Vigne, op. cit., no. 2187, illustrated): whereas the pose of the figure is almost identical in the two drawings, there are some differences concerning the rendering of the Emperor's arms. In the Montauban drawing, Ingres was particularly concerned with the foreshortening of the right and left arm, as the several extant pentimenti in these areas document. The present drawing seems to represent already a later phase in the work on the figure. Here, Ingres drew the right arm at the exact level of the one in the Paris modello. The artist also reworked the left arm, thereby slightly reducing its foreshortening and making the left shoulder appear slenderer. The drawing clearly shows Ingres' concern with the left shoulder, since this is the only part of the drawing, where he carefully cross-hatched the space behind the contour of the shoulder in order to get a better idea of its spatial appearance.
For the figure of the Emperor, Ingres made use of antique models such as the Terme Ruler or the Basel Ruler. A figure type very similar to the one that Ingres developed was already used by Canova for his sculpture of Napoléon as Mars, 1803-06, now at Apsley House in London, which was on display for a short time after its arrival in Paris. The drawing bears the stamp of the painter, restorer, art dealer, student and close friend of Ingres', Etienne-François Haro, known as Haro père. Shortly before his death, Ingres sold 31 painted sketches and more than forty drawings to Haro for 50.000 Francs. This collection formed part of the Ingres sale which was held upon the death of the artist on 6 and 7 May 1867 which fetched more than 128.000 Francs.