Title: Consulate of the Cisalpine Republic meeting in comitia in Lyon
Author : MONSIAU Nicolas André (1754 - 1837)
Creation date : 1808
Date shown: January 26, 1802
Dimensions: Height 319 - Width 483
Technique and other indications: to award the presidency to the First Consul, January 26, 1802. Oil on canvas
Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website
Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet
Picture reference: 86EE1148 / MV 1500
Consulate of the Cisalpine Republic meeting in comitia in Lyon
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet
Publication date: March 2016
At the end of the second Italian campaign marked by the victory of Marengo on June 14, 1800, French troops largely occupied Italy, which found itself split into two sister republics, Ligurian (Genoa) and Cisalpine (Milan). In December 1801, the First Consul assembled a Consulta legislative in Lyon, that is to say an assembly of notables (representatives of the army, members of the government, archbishops, bishops and pastors delegated by their peers, magistrates, academics, etc.) chosen by Murat in order to set up a new organization of powers. But by disappointing the hopes of the Italian patriots who
wanted unity with Piedmont, Bonaparte began in Italy a policy of forming vassal republics. At Talleyrand’s insistence, the Thirty reluctantly propose Bonaparte.
Monsiau spent a few years in Rome, was part of the Academy and exhibited regularly at the Salon. From 1789, his art became more and more academic. He devoted himself to religious painting, but acquired fame in the great genre which, under the Restoration, joined under his brush historical and anecdotal painting, as evidenced by his Louis XVI and La Pérouse (1817, Versailles) which was part of the collections of Louis XVIII.
The scene takes place in the chapel of the former Collège de la Trinité, now Lycée Ampère, in Lyon. The citizen Napoléon Bonaparte appears here surrounded (to the right of the composition) by Murat, Berthier, Louis, Hortense and Joséphine de Beauharnais; we recognize Chaptal seated at the bottom of the steps. To the right of the First Consul are represented Marescalchi, Talleyrand, Bernadotte, Count Melzi d´Eril (reading an address). The moment chosen by Monsiau is when the citizen Bonaparte, elected president of the Cisalpine Republic on January 24 at the insistence of Talleyrand, has just addressed the deputies in Italian, proposing that they adopt national attitudes and set up an army. The name of "Italian Republic" is acclaimed, and the names of the Italians called to constitute the great bodies of the state are read.
The painter Gérard refused the commission for this work, preferring to execute a series of imperial portraits rather than a huge group portrait. Monsiau was therefore commissioned in 1806 with this large composition, which became his masterpiece, intended for the Galerie de Diane at the Tuileries, exhibited at the Salon of 1808, then installed at the Tuileries in 1809. Soon replaced by theEntry of Napoleon into Berlin by Meynier (MV 1552), the painting remained in the reserves from 1810 to 1824. Louis-Philippe brought it into his historic Galleries of the Musée de Versailles.
The fact that the Empire deemed it opportune to celebrate a great deed of the Consulate is evidently justified in the popular acceptance of Napoleon's power. But by 1810, the warlike power was to supplant, in the imperial propaganda, the legislative organization of the Empire: which explains the various avatars of the painting of Monsiau. Only the retrospective thirst of Louis-Philippe, anxious to restore imperial legitimacy at the same time as the military power of Napoleon's reign, was able to rehabilitate this immense composition, heir to the perfection of its execution, of the great tradition of a David.
- Beauharnais (Joséphine de)
- Bonaparte (Napoleon)
- Cisalpine Republic
- Talleyrand-Périgord (Charles-Maurice de)
- Louis Philippe
Yveline CANTAREL-BESSON, Claire CONSTANS and Bruno FOUCART Napoleon. Images and history: paintings of the Palace of Versailles (1789-1815) Paris, RMN, 2001.
Roger DUFRAISSE and Michel KERAUTRET Napoleonic France. External aspects Paris, Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1999.
Jean TULARD (dir.) Napoleon dictionary Paris, Fayard, 1987, reprint 1999.
Jean TULARD (dir.) The History of Napoleon through painting Paris, Belfond, 1991.
To cite this article
Pascal TORRÈS, "Consulate of the Cisalpine Republic meeting in comitia in Lyon"