Meeting of Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, November 25, 1804

Meeting of Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, November 25, 1804

  • Meeting of Napoleon and Pope Pius VII in the forest of Fontainebleau, November 25, 1804.

    DEMARNE Jean-Louis (1744 - 1829)

  • The Emperor goes to meet the Pope at Fontainebleau November 25, 1804.

    MONNET Charles (1732 - 1810)

  • Interview with Napoleon Ier and Pius VII in the Fontainebleau forest.

    GIBERT Antoine Placide (1806 - 1875)

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Title: Meeting of Napoleon and Pope Pius VII in the forest of Fontainebleau, November 25, 1804.

Author : DEMARNE Jean-Louis (1744 - 1829)

Creation date : 1808

Date shown: November 25, 1804

Dimensions: Height 223 - Width 229

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas.

Storage location: National Museum of the Château de Fontainebleau website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved website

Picture reference: 93-004645 / INV6438; MV1706

Meeting of Napoleon and Pope Pius VII in the forest of Fontainebleau, November 25, 1804.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

To close

Title: The Emperor goes to meet the Pope at Fontainebleau November 25, 1804.

Author : MONNET Charles (1732 - 1810)

Date shown: November 25, 1804

Dimensions: Height 13.5 - Width 10.1

Technique and other indications: Indian ink wash. Pen drawing. Series: 69 drawings for the illustration of "the History of France under the Empire of Napoleon the Great"

Storage location: National Museum of Malmaison Castle website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 00-014439 / MM.54.12.16

The Emperor goes to meet the Pope at Fontainebleau November 25, 1804.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

To close

Title: Interview with Napoleon Ier and Pius VII in the Fontainebleau forest.

Author : GIBERT Antoine Placide (1806 - 1875)

Date shown: November 25, 1804

Dimensions: Height 92 - Width 74

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas. The date inscribed is incorrect (November 25 and not 26, 1804)

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

Picture reference: 78-001566 / inv18501384

Interview with Napoleon Ier and Pius VII in the Fontainebleau forest.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

Publication date: February 2009

Historical context

On May 8, 1802, officially as a pledge of national recognition for the return to peace, the Senate re-elected Napoleon Bonaparte First Consul for a period of ten years. The Constitution of year X (August 4, 1802) made him a true monarch: consul for life, Bonaparte could designate his successor. Moreover, Bonaparte is haunted by the memory of Charlemagne: like his “august predecessor”, he wanted to build an empire with European dimensions.

On April 23, 1804, the tribune Curée presented to the Tribunate a motion conferring hereditary imperial power on Napoleon Bonaparte and his family. “Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul, is Emperor of the French. Imperial dignity is hereditary. The plebiscite of November 1804 confers national legitimacy on the new monarchy: the Constitution of the year XII is approved. Napoleon wanted to give a divine character to the imperial dignity.

On May 10, 1804, he received Cardinal Caprara and expressed his desire to be consecrated by the Pope. Napoleon met him, and on November 28, Pius VII and the Emperor made a solemn entry into Paris.

Image Analysis

Testimony to the importance that was then given to the reestablishment of religious peace in France, the meeting of Pope Pius VII and Emperor Napoleon I in the forest of Fontainebleau, on November 25, 1804, seems to have nourished the inspiration of many painters, judging by the three works presented here.

Born in Brussels on March 7, 1744, Jean-Louis Demarne (1744-1829) arrived very young in Paris where he studied painting under the direction of Briard. Originally a painter of history, he soon became a champion of rurality. He reconnects here with his first loves. The theater of the encounter is the crossroads of the Obelisk, on the edge of the Fontainebleau forest. The location may not have been chosen at random: this obelisk is a smaller replica of the one that adorns St. Peter's Square in Rome. The Emperor has dismounted from his white horse and goes to meet the Pope who has just left his carriage.

Grand Prix de Rome in 1832, Antoine Placide Gibert (1806-1875) was most likely inspired by the work of Jean-Louis Demarne. The composition of the painting is much the same, but the artist has focused on the Pope and the Emperor.

Born in Bordeaux in 1732, Charles Monnet (1732-after 1808) was the painter to King Louis XVI and particularly excelled in anatomical drawing. In his representation of the meeting, the place is less important than the characters. The Emperor, followed by two officers, advances towards the Pope accompanied by three prelates.

In these three works, Napoleon I, very upright, dominates the sovereign pontiff, humbly inclined before him. It is undoubtedly a propaganda iconography which defends the imperial regime.

Interpretation

The Emperor Napoleon I was the only Napoleon to be sacred. He had to assert his legitimacy in the face of the royalists, hence the necessary presence of the Pope at the sumptuous ceremony, immortalized by the painter David, which took place at Notre-Dame on December 2, 1804, under the eyes of the court, of the Assemblies. , the diplomatic corps and representatives of "good cities". Nevertheless, an unexpected obstacle arose at the last minute: Napoleon's civil marriage to Joséphine de Beauharnais; the pope required a religious union beforehand. The Emperor had to yield and accept the nuptial blessing celebrated by Cardinal Fesch, his uncle, on the eve of the coronation. Pius VII consecrated the monarch the next day, but, writes Benjamin Constant, “although he had promised to conform to the rules of ceremonial, Napoleon preceded the Pope, astonished by his audacity, ascended the altar, seized the crown and placed it on his head ”. He then crowned Josephine. In fact, it was not an improvised act, but a protocol agreed in advance and discussed at length with the Sovereign Pontiff. Benjamin Constant was a staunch opponent of the imperial regime, and it is no wonder that the Emperor's gesture deeply shocked him, as it shocked many European observers. Indeed, on January 5, 1805, Cardinal Consalvi wrote to Pius VII that it was sorry in Rome that Napoleon had pushed disrespect to the point of crowning himself.

On March 30, 1805, about to leave Paris, the Pope bade farewell to the Emperor. During his stay, he had had the joy of witnessing the revival in France of an appeased Catholicism, favored by the government, but he returned to Rome with a heavy feeling of failure: he had neither obtained the restitution of its temporal power over the legations nor the abrogation of the Organic Articles.

  • Concordat of 1801
  • Fontainebleau
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • Napoleonic propaganda
  • Pius VII
  • coronation of Napoleon

Bibliography

Jacques-Olivier BOUDON, Napoleon and the cults, Paris, Fayard, 2002.José CABANIS, The Coronation of Napoleon, Paris, 1970.Jacques CRETINEAU-JOLY, Memoirs of Cardinal Consalvi, Secretary of State to Pope Pius VII (with an introduction and notes), Paris, Plon, 1864 Yves-Marie HILAIRE, History of the Papacy, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 2003. Jean LEFLON, The concordance and imperial Church, Maison de la Bonne Presse, Paris, 1947.Bernardine MELCHIOR-BONNET, Napoleon and the Pope, The Contemporary Book, Paris, 1958. Gérard PELLETIER, Rome and the French Revolution: Theology and Politics of the Holy See in the Face of the French Revolution (1789-1799), Collection of the French School of Rome, 2004. Jean TULARD, Napoleon dictionary, Fayard, Paris, 1999.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "Meeting of Napoleon and Pope Pius VII, November 25, 1804"


Video: 2nd December 1804: Napoleon crowns himelf Emperor of the French