Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche (French, 1797-1856)

Bonaparte Crossing the Alps

Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche (French, 1797-1856)

“Napoleon Crossing the Alps”

Oil on canvas, Framed 27″ x 22″

Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche (French, 1797-1856), Signed lower left, 1848,

Delaroche was a student of the noted French Neoclassical history painter, Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835), and closely allied with one of the most enterprising dealers of the period, the Maison Goupil. For over a decade, in the mid-nineteenth century, Delaroche was considered “the most famous (and consequently the most collected) painter of the day, attracting patrons throughout Europe and beyond” (Stephen Bann). Delaroche’s early works were primarily based on classical themes from the Old Testament, but gradually his interests switched to realistic scenes from English and French history.

In response to Jacques-Louis David’s theatrical and flattering portrait of Napoleon on a rearing stallion, Delaroche was commissioned to paint a more accurate image of Bonaparte’s journey through the Saint-Bernard Pass. Combining his academic training with the emerging romantic style, we see the Emperor cold and bedraggled on the back of a tired mule. Delaroche’s intent was not to undermine the emperor; rather, he wanted people to see Napoleon as a human, not worshipped like a god.

Delaroche, a master of historical painting, produced five versions of Bonaparte Crossing the Alps: One version hangs in the Louvre; a second version, commissioned by the third Earl of Onslow, dated 1850, belongs to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool; the third hangs in Paris’ Musee Frederic Masson; and the fourth was purchased by Queen Victoria and hangs in Buckingham Palace. The painting currently in The Knohl Collection is the only version that remains in private hands and the sole canvas in pristine condition.

In 1984, Elisabeth Foucart-Walker wrote an excellent scholarly article on Delaroche’s painting, Napoleon Crossing the Alps. The article was published in the La Revue du Louvre et des Musees de France. (see Elisabeth Foucart-Walter, Paul Delaroche et le thème du Passage du Saint-Bernard par Bonaparte, La Revue du Louvre et des Musée de France, 1984).

According to the article, in 1982, the Louvre acquired (with the help of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Lutece Foundation) the “Naylor” version of this painting — named after the previous owner, John Naylor, an English collector. After the restoration of the painting was completed, their meticulous research confirmed that the version owned by The Knohl Collection, the “Dillion” version, was executed in 1848, the same year as the original “Naylor” version, now at the Louvre in Paris. It is interesting to note that no one has yet conclusively demonstrated which of the two 1848 versions – “Naylor” or “Dillion” – was painted first. However, it is clear that the painting in The Knohl Collection is the only version that remains in private hands. Though smaller than the version in the Louvre, the painting in The Knohl Collection is “the only canvas in immaculate condition, directly from Delaroche’s brush.”


Elisabeth Foucart-Walter, Paul Delaroche et le thème du Passage du Saint-Bernard par Bonaparte, Musée du Louvre, Department des Peintures, La Revue du Louvre et des Musée de France, 1984

Bann, Stephen, Delaroche, Napoleon and English Collectors, Apollo, October, 2005

Bann, Stephen. Paul Delaroche. Princeton Univ Pr; September 29, 1997

Elisabeth Foucart-Walter is the Curator of French museums and Stephen Bann is Professor of History of Art at the University of Bristol and Professor at CASVA, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. His publications include Paul Delaroche: History Painted (1997).

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Paul Emile Boutigny (French, 1854‐1929)

Paul Emile Boutigny (French, 1854‐1929), Napoleon Rendant Visite aux Blesses (Napoleon Returns to Visit the Wounded), c. 1890, oil on canvas, 38″ x 50″

Boutigny was trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and was decorated with the Legion of Honor in 1898. His painting, Napoleon Rendant Visite Aux Blessés (Napoleon Returns to Visit the Wounded), is a perfectly orchestrated propaganda piece with the emperor portrayed as a calm, compassionate, and commanding hero bestowing comfort to his friend, Marshal Jean Lannes, who was seriously wounded in the 1809 Battle of Aspern-Essling. Napoleon, oddly unsoiled with blood, is bathed in light, not unlike a saint or savior with the miraculous power to heal.


Marshal Jean Lannes, lying on the ground with one leg amputated, was injured on May 22, 1809 while he was engaged in the brutal battle of Aspern-Essling. The French were battling the Austrian army in an attempt to cross the Danube.

Lannes was in the company of his mentor, General Pierre-Charles Pouzet. As the two men discussed the battle, a cannonball struck Pouzet in the stomach and killed him instantly. Reeling from the shock at watching his close friend die so violently, the dazed Lannes stumbled to the edge of a ditch and sat down. As he gathered his thoughts, shrapnel from a second cannonball tore through his legs, smashing the knee of one and badly injuring the other. Although Lannes told witnesses that his injuries were not as bad as they seemed, he was unable to stand. He was rushed to the well-known military medic, Dominique Jean Larrey (pictured in the painting), surgeon-in-chief of the Napoleonic armies for 18 years. Larrey initially amputated one leg, but ultimately was forced to amputate Lannes’ second leg too.

When news of Lannes’ injuries reached Napoleon, he rushed to his friend’s side. Under Napoleon’s instruction Lannes was moved to the comfort of a house in Kaiser-Ebersdorf, but there was nothing that could be done to save the injured man. Instead Lannes lingered on for a week, and died on May 31, 1809. Napoleon ensured that his confidante and dear friend was buried at the Pantheon, where he rests to this day.


Harold Hume Piffard (British, 1867 – 1938)

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Harold Hume Piffard (British, 1867 – 1938), Saragossa 10 February 1809, oil on canvas, signed, 54″ x 36″

Saragossa resisted fiercely in the Peninsula War under General Jose de Palafox y Melzi – but fell on February 10, 1809

Aviator and artist Harold Hume Piffard, known as Piff to his friends, was born in India and educated on the South coast of England. He exhibited four works at the Royal Academy, two works at the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham, and several works at Liverpool.

Piffard finished his schooling in England in 1883 and returned to India to work briefly on a Darjeeling tea plantation. Still unsure where he wanted to focus his creative energy, he decided to join an acrobatic troop. In 1889, after few years of exploring possible careers paths, he went back to India to focus on his painting. He eventually entered the Royal Academy of Arts and later spent some time studying in Paris. He became a successful portrait painter and skilled history painter.

His well-known painting depicting the capture of the Spanish City of Zaragoza during the Peninsular War (Saragossa: 10 February, 1809) details the brutality suffered by the Spanish at the hands of the French army. It is a vivid image of a cathedral under siege; gun smoke fills the interior of the church as French soldiers trample Spanish monks to the floor.

A man of many interests and talents, Piff was fascinated with designing and constructing model airplanes. He established The Aviators Finance Company Limited and built a box kite bi-plane, which he named Hummingbird.

Saragossa or Zaragoza is a city in Spain. Saragossa resisted fiercely in the Peninsula War (1807-14), a prolonged war fought in Spain and Portugal. The Second Siege of Zaragoza ended with the French capture of the Spanish city. It was particularly noted for its brutality.The Spanish did not rise up against Napoleon until he deposed their king, and put his own brother on the Spanish throne. This occurred shortly after the French invaded Spain on the pretext of conquering Portugal, but took over numerous Spanish fortifications in the processes. This caused a widespread rebellion, not among the aristocracy, but among common people throughout Spain. Here we see a cathedral under siege – gun smoke fills the church as French soldiers trample Spanish monks to the floor and monks wrap their hands around their attackers’ throats. Saragossa resisted to the bitter end, but the French prevailed.


José Frappa (French, 1854-1904)

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José Frappa (French, 1854-1904), Pius VII et Napoleon, oil on canvas, signed “José Frappa” lower right, 25″ x 31″, Framed: 39.5″ x 33.3″

This scene by French artist José Frappa depicts a seated Pope Pius VII looking upwards with Napoleon standing in the background, leaving evidence of an argument scattered on the ground. Since the time of his election until the fall of Napoleon in 1815, Pope Pius VII was continually in conflict with the Emperor, arguing for the end of his exile and the return of the Papal States, which had been disbanded by the armies of the French Revolution.

Jose Frappa spent his childhood in the town of St-Etienne, about 20 miles southwest of Lyon, France. Born on April 18, 1854 to Rose and Jean-Claude Frappa, he grew up during the relatively stable Second Empire period when France was perceived as both a political and cultural leader in Europe. The family grocery store was apparently at the center of daily life in St. Etienne, and Frappa seems to be fondly remembered there even now.

The young Frappa showed an interest—and talent—in the visual arts from the time he was quite young. Building on this interest, his parents apprenticed him as a designer in silk trade in Lyon. However, Frappa soon determined that his interest was primarily in the art of painting, rather than textile design. His parents were less than enthusiastic about this development, but eventually agreed that he should attend the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Lyon.

Frappa enrolled at the art school in 1872 when he was eighteen years old, the year after France’s resounding defeat at the hands of the Prussian army. Fortunately for the city of Lyon, the Prussian advance on Paris and Versailles was sufficient to end the war before hostilities spread further south. Despite the gravity of France’s occupation by Prussian forces, Lyon remained a thriving industrial center in the late nineteenth century; more significant for Frappa, it offered him an exciting introduction to metropolitan life.

Frappa decided to pursue his passion for painting and moved to the big city of Paris to study at the national Ecole des Beaux-Arts. According to an 1890 source, Frappa studied first with Isadore Pils (1813-1875), and then with Charles Comte (1823-1895) and Jehan-Georges Vibert (1840-1902) after Pils’ death in 1875. [i] Both Comte and Vibert specialized in anecdotal genre paintings, which were very popular during the early years of the Third Republic.

Frappa’s painting, The Flautist, which is dated 1875, reflects the influence of his professors in this genre. It not only demonstrates the young artist’s competence in drawing and composition, but also provides a glimpse of the type of subject that will come to characterize much of his work. The painting is clearly an image of a model posing as a flautist in a staged setting, which may even have been intended as a reference to Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute. It is light-hearted and just intriguing enough to draw the viewer into imagining a narrative to fit the scene. Frappa will continue to refine this approach over the years as he explored a variety of anecdotal genre subjects ranging from scenes of monks and cardinals of the Catholic church to rococo-revival lovers’ trysts.

When Frappa made his Salon debut in 1876, anecdotal genre painting was amply displayed and widely appreciated by the public. According to Emile Zola’s review of the Salon that year, viewers stood in line to see The Flower Market by Marie-François Firmin-Girard (1838-1921), a charming depiction of beautiful women among the flower sellers next to the Seine. More influential for Frappa, however, was The Cardinal’s Antechamber, a painting by Vibert, in which a red-robed cardinal addresses a lovely young woman seated in an opulent setting. Vibert was well known for this type of image, and undoubtedly mentored Frappa as he began to define his own artistic path. Four years later, he won an honorable mention at the 1880 Salon, no small achievement among a field of 7,289 entries, the largest number ever at the Paris Salon.

In his personal life, Frappa was also thriving. He married Madeleine Marie Augustine Frézet in 1881 and set up housekeeping with her in the 17th arrondissement on the northwest side of Paris. On April 3, 1881, their only son, Jean José Frappa was born. It was during these years that Frappa seems to have begun to develop his reputation as a portrait painter. The earliest securely dated portrait is from 1884 and shows a beautiful young woman in a sumptuously lace-trimmed gown. Known only as Portrait d’élégante, she was clearly a woman of style and presumably wealth. With a new family to support, Frappa undoubtedly realized that portrait painting could provide a reliable income if he was successful at it.

During the 1880s, he also began exhibiting his work in both London and the United States, expanding the market for his paintings beyond the borders of France. He held an exhibition in London in June 1887 and appears to have continued this practice well into the 1890s. Frappa was particularly active in the American art market, with representation through galleries in New York City. Although his work was probably quite widely appreciated in the United States, it is securely documented in the collection of William H. Shaw and in the catalogue of the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco. [ii] By 1888, Frappa was sufficiently affluent to move his family into new quarters at 12, rue de Pergolèse in the decidedly fashionable 16th arrondissement near the Bois de Boulogne.

Frappa’s prosperity depended in part on his ability to work in a variety of genres ranging from traditional portraiture and realistic narratives depicting serious subjects to the amusing anecdotal scenes of religious figures, particularly cardinals and monks engaged in all too human foibles of enjoying a glass of wine or playing popular card games.

Public acclaim for Frappa’s work increased considerably in the late 1880s and 1890s. He was twice a member of the Conseil des 90 de la Société des Artistes Français, a private council that today might be called an executive committee; and an associate member of the newly created Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts led by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. In 1890, he began exhibiting at the Salon du Champ de Mars that was associated with the Société. During this decade, Frappa was also exploring the world of publishing, both as an illustrator and as an author. His illustration entitled Fleur et Papillon was included in the limited edition publication of Chansons et Poesies de Camille Roy in 1898; and simultaneously, he was working on a book of his own on the subject of expression in the human face. Published by the Librairie générale des art décoratifs in 1902, Frappa’s book, Les expressions de la physionomie humaine, became a seminal book for analyzing how human beings could (or could not) control their facial expressions. This type of scientific inquiry was typical of the post-Darwinian world in which both artists and scientists sought to understand how humans fit into the scheme of biological development.

In 1897, Frappa was represented in the Exposition Internationale in Brussels with two paintings, Le dispensaire d’enfants (The Children’s Clinic) and La femme au manteau bleu (The Woman in the Blue Cloak) [iii] and was awarded the Legion of Honor medal on February 4, 1898, in large part because of his work on the exposition.

After such a remarkable career, beginning in the family grocery story in St. Etienne and ultimately becoming a respected and successful painter in Paris, Frappa’s life ended rather early at age 50 in 1904. He did not live to see his son become a well-known author, playwright and editor of Le Monde Illustré. Frappa is buried not far from his home in the Boulogne-Billancourt cemetery. In his hometown of St. Etienne, he was honored with a large monument in front of the town hall. Sculpted by Georges Bareau, the dedication ceremony on Mary 17, 1912 was attended by the national minister of fine arts as well as the mayor of St. Etienne and of course, Frappa’s widow, son and mother.


Janet Whitmore, Ph.D and Rehs Galleries, Inc.

[i] Private Collection of Mr. William H. Shaw, Auction catalogue, March 7, 1890 at American Art Galleries (New York 1890) 75.

[ii] See Private Collection of Mr. William H. Shaw, Auction catalogue, March 7, 1890 at American Art Galleries (New York 1890); and Catalogue of the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art (San Francisco Art Association, 1902).

[iii] See Catalogue illustré de l’Exposition internationale de Bruxelles. Beaux-arts. (Paris: E. Bernard & Cie, 1897), 3, 41.

Selected Museums

Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

Musee d’art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasboug

Musée de l’Assistance Publique, Hôpitaux de Paris

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Musée du Louvre, Paris

Northhampton Museums and Art Gallery, England