Bonaparte and propaganda during the Italian campaign

Bonaparte and propaganda during the Italian campaign

  • Army of Italy sticker, letterhead by General Bonaparte.

  • Italian Army sticker, letterhead by General Bonaparte.

  • Mail from the Army of Italy. 1797

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Title: Army of Italy sticker, letterhead by General Bonaparte.

Author :

Creation date : 1797

Date shown: 01 October 1797

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Headquarters of Passeriano, 10 Vendémiaire Year VI (1 October 1797)

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: PC45010276

Army of Italy sticker, letterhead by General Bonaparte.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

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Title: Army of Italy sticker, letterhead by General Bonaparte.

Author :

Creation date : 1797

Date shown: January 13, 1797

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Verona headquarters. 24 Nivôse year V (January 13, 1797)

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photo workshop website

Picture reference: NUML000536

Army of Italy sticker, letterhead by General Bonaparte.

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

To close

Title: The courier of the Army of Italy. 1797

Author :

Creation date : 1797

Date shown: July 20, 1797

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: by a Society of Republicans. 1797. N ° 1 dated 3 Thermidor year V (July 20, 1797). Pages 1 and 4.

Storage location: National Library of France (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo National Library of France

Picture reference: Lc2 2672 D1 p.1,4

Mail from the Army of Italy. 1797

© Photo National Library of France

Publication date: May 2003

Historical context

Still little known when he joined the Army of Italy to carry out diversionary maneuvers, Bonaparte knew straight away how to tie up his soldiers. The magnitude of his victories gave Bonaparte's propaganda a hitherto unknown impact.

Bonaparte surrounds his reports to the Directory with publicity, stages shipments of flags or works of art and the exploits of the army of Italy. It will take the return of Egypt to transform Bonaparte into First Consul.

Image Analysis

The victorious army took on the features of a young, beautiful and determined Minerva. The lion and the griffin which adorn its seat, the foliage of oak and laurel, surround it with symbols of strength, intelligence and glory. Camped face-on, her feet firmly planted on a shield and armor, the goddess asserts her ability to enforce the rights acquired by the Revolution by holding in her hand a spear with a Phrygian cap on the tip. It is clothed with the signs of war of the Roman army: the coat of general-in-chief in the field and the axes put in the bundles of lictors. Obviously, this Minerva wearing a splendid plume will decide the war even if the Directory wants to stop the conquests! A metallic breastplate covers his chest. Amidst the scales, the effigy is not a gorgon, but a portrait, framed by wings, of the victor, Bonaparte!

Artists from Milan, the painter Appiani and the engraver Mercoli, gave this vignette an exceptional scale. With the letterhead of the General-in-Chief of the Army of Italy, it takes up half the page. Here is relegated to oblivion the Marianne who adorned her writing paper eight months earlier, familiarly perched on a cannon carriage beside some Republican emblems and an Italian cypress transformed into the tree of Liberty! La Minerve d´Appiani immediately embodies the new balance of power with Bonaparte for the Directory.

Andrea Appiani, who painted Bonaparte in his favorite portrait, early contributed to portraying him in the neoclassical tradition, as the hero who gave Italy its freedom. In 1797, during the brief period of enthusiasm for the creation of the Italian sister republics, the new administrations adopted on the model of this one, vignettes and headers inspired by large compositions.

Under this new vignette, Bonaparte signs the dispatch to the Directory of the addresses of his troops. The various bodies express their satisfaction that the plot of 18 Fructidor (September 4, 1797) was crushed in the name of the ideals of the Revolution. The unanimity of these texts, often printed by official order and accompanied by long lists of signatures of soldiers, shows the powerful cohesion of the army of Italy and can only impress the Directory.

The Courier of the Army of Italy gives the soldiers new arrivals from France and those of the armies, by orienting them politically in the direction that Bonaparte wishes. Its authors call themselves “a society of French republicans”. The quote from Father Raynal, known for his writings condemned by the Ancien Régime but who did not participate in the Revolution, presents as a moral duty for the army to defend the values ​​of the Republic.

The newspaper also seeks to exalt the attachment of men to their leader. During the feast of July 14 in Milan, a corporal said to Bonaparte: “ General, you saved France. Your glorious children to belong to this invincible army will make you a bulwark of their body. Save the Republic."The subscription rate announcement appears in all issues as a guarantee of independence, but the Mail was often distributed free in Paris and in the army. The spoils of war provided Bonaparte with the necessary means. If necessary, the facts are related in a distorted way, in order to play on the springs of emotion. Everything must combine to present him to the public as a hero who combines strength and intelligence and as a friend of artists and scholars; who, in return, will sing his praises.

Interpretation

From now on, nothing will be done without the Army of Italy and without its providential leader. Bonaparte took on a political dimension that the Directory did not foresee: he had an army, a large booty and several newspapers.

The documents from Italy reveal that all the major themes which will inspire the Napoleonic legend were born, long before Saint Helena, during this first campaign, by the will of Bonaparte. It was from this time that Bonaparte created his own image, citing his exceptional qualities, his genius and his destiny. The man thus enters the legend alive. This genius of the staging will subjugate an entire era. The army is that of the Revolution at the same time as that of national greatness. At the same time, war already appears as a theme and an instrument of propaganda: it unites the nation in the face of the common enemy and becomes a means of psychological action on internal opinion.

What is the Napoleonic legend if it is not the fruit of the extraordinary success of young Bonaparte's propaganda?

  • allegory
  • Appiani (Andrea)
  • army
  • Italian countryside
  • Directory
  • myth
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • hurry
  • propaganda
  • Venice
  • symbols
  • Italy
  • media

Bibliography

[The] courier of the Army of Italy, or The French Patriot in Milan / by a Society of Republicans.1797-1798.198.N 1-248. (3 thermidor year V-12 frimaire year VII). [La] France view of the army of Italy: 16 thermidor-16 brumaire year V: journal of politics, administration and French and foreign literature. 1797.18.N 1-18. (16 thermidor year V-16 brumaire year VI). Jean TULARD (dir.) Napoleon dictionary Paris, Fayard, 1987. Jean TULARD Napoleon or the myth of the savior Paris, Fayard, 1986. Michel VOVELLE The sister republics under the gaze of the Great Nation, 1795-1803 Paris, L’Harmattan, 2000. Michel VOVELLE The French Revolution, images and narrative, 1789-1799 volume V, Paris, Messidor, 1986.

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS, "Bonaparte and propaganda during the Italian campaign"


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