Duchesne du Gisors - portrait of Napoleon

This miniature portrait is unsigned, but has been attributed to Jean Baptiste Duchesne (1770-1856).

For more about him see Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Duchesne - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A helpful Napoleonic collector has advised that, although there are many portraits of Napoleon wearing this Colonel of the Guards uniform, the only other portrait he has ever seen with the same facial pose is a large oil portrait of Napoleon in the Historiches Museum in Speyer, Germany. That oil is shown here and is understood to be recorded as being painted by Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Duchesne de Gisors (1770-1856).

In the oil portrait Napoleon is wearing the uniform of chasseur a cheval, whereas here he is wearing the uniform of a colonel of the guards. According to an exhibition catalogue for the Historiches Museum, there is apparently also a sketch for the Duchesne oil in Malmasion which bears the inscription "Sketch made from life by Duchesne du Gisors six weeks before Waterloo, made for a portrait ordered by the Emperor".

Napoleon escaped from Elba on 26 February 1815. Ney joined him on 14 March 1815 and Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo on 18 June 1815. The sketch being made six weeks before Waterloo, implies the sketch for the oil was made around 1 May 1815. This date was six weeks after Ney had rejoined Napoleon on 14 March.

The miniature is engraved at the foot of the frame "Given by the Emperor Napoleon to Marshal Ney who gave it to Lady Elizabeth Monck". It therefore seems quite possible that Duchesne also painted this miniature, especially given the short time from when the sketch was made, until Marshal Ney was arrested and tried for treason after Waterloo.

There are other miniatures of Napoleon wearing the same white and green uniform, but by various other artists, which raises the possibility they were sketched at the same time, but by artists sitting in different positions in the one room while Napoleon posed. With the dark uniform then being substituted for the final version of the Duchesne oil portrait.

This miniature was acquired together with a Monck family portrait, which is shown in the collection under British miniatures. Lengthy research has identified Lady Elizabeth Monck (1765-1829) as a daughter of the 2nd Earl of Arran. One of her daughters married Vice Admiral Sir Charles Paget, the brother of Lord Uxbridge, cavalry commander for the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo.

As both Ney and Uxbridge were respected cavalry commanders, it is entirely likely Lady Elizabeth met Marshal Ney around the time of his imprisonment after Waterloo, as it is recorded that ladies from the British Embassy did meet with him at that time.

In fact, some researchers believe that Ney was assisted by the British to escape execution after his trial and also assisted to flee to America where he lived incognito for many years as a schoolteacher named Peter Ney. There are several interesting books about this including "Historic Doubts as to the Execution of Marshal Ney" by James A Weston which was published in 1895 after 12 years of research and also "Marshal Ney - A Dual Life" by Legette Blythe, published in 1937. 830

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