- Museum number
- Object: Bonaparte addressing the legislative body.
Napoleon stands, colossus-like, legs apart, his head turned in profile to the right, looking down with an expression of despair. He is on a high dais beside his throne (right), and turns his back on the crowded hall. He wears a crown and imperial robe over ragged uniform. A tattered sleeve leaves his right forearm and elbow bare; his legs are naked between tattered remnants of breeches and spurred boots through which his toes project. He weeps, with a handkerchief to his eye, and his right hand touching the star on his breast. Behind him (left) is a sea of heads receding in perspective; these are burlesqued, with expressions registering dismay, cynicism, or sly satisfaction. Among them are three bishops wearing mitres. At the back of the hall is a gallery filled with heads on a tiny scale, feathered head-dresses show them to be ladies. Napoleon's words fill a large label covering the upper part of the design: "I myself entered Russia, the Russian armies could not stand before our armies. The French arms were constantly victorious.—— ------"a swarm of Tartars turned their —— parricidal hands against the finest provinces of that vast Empire which they had been called to defend.—— "But the excessive and premature rigour of the winter brought down a heavy calamity upon my army—— in a few nights I saw every thing change.—— "the misfortunes produced by rigour of hoar frosts, have been made apparent in all their extent, —— I experienced great losses—they would have broken my heart, if under such circumstances I could have been accessible to any other sentiments than those of the interest,—the glory,—and the future prosperity of my people.— "I have signed with the Pope a Concordat, which terminates all the diffirences [sic] that unfortunately had arisen in the Church.—The French dynasty—reigns,— and will reign in Spain.—I am satisfied with all my allies.—I will abandon none of them.—The Russians shall return into their frightful climate [cf. Nos. 12022, 12024, 13487]."
Plate numbered 189.
24 February 1813
- Production date
Height: 348 millimetres
Width: 245 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
The speech made by Napoleon at the opening of the Session of the Legislative Body on 15 Feb. is quoted from the translation in the English newspapers, almost textually except for large omissions. The chief divergence follows 'rigour of hoar frosts'; this continues: 'have made apparent, in all their extent, the grandeur and the solidity of this empire, founded upon the efforts and the love of 50,000,000 of citizens, and upon the territorial resources of the finest countries in the world'. The omissions are chiefly an attack on England, and a declaration of his desire for peace, proposed four times since the Treaty of Amiens, and praise of the 'glorious contest' of America. 'Europ. Mag.' lxiii. 162-3. For the retreat from Moscow see No. 11917, &c.; for the (abortive) Concordat see No. 11998, &c.
Perhaps based on No. 9278, by Gillray (1798), 'Buonaparte, hearing of Nelson's Victory, swears by his Sword, to extirpate the English from off the Earth', based on a speech written by Volney and published in the 'Moniteur'. In both a colossal figure stands astride, with words filling the upper part of the print.
Reid, No. 217. Cohn, No. 1197. Broadley, i. 333.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number