This is one of several works in which the most prestigious painter of neoclassical art, Jacques Louis David portrayedNapoleon Bonaparte, and that the relations between the artist and the ruler were not very good, since David was very involved in politics and was a clear follower of Robespierre.
Napoleon crossing David's Alps
Furthermore, Napoléon was more in favor of a slightly more romantic painting and he always liked more the way of painting of other creators such asAntoine Gros, who portrayed him in several of his military campaigns. However David was the most valued artist of his time and therefore had to be painted by him.
Perhaps because they didn't hit it off and because David tried to make an image too romantic, the truth is that we can't consider it the best work of the painter, and in fact it is a unsuccessful attempt to create the model for the iconography of a hero.
David was probably too cold for this type of work, and everything seems a bit stiff. However, there are very interesting details, such as the character's portrait itself, undoubtedly of enormous quality. And it is also interesting to assess how he is capable of incorporating discreet elements that fix the scene in space and time, alluding with the cannons in the background and the characters to episodesactually occurred before 1800, when he made the work.
And the way of animating the scene is also interesting, something that he achieves above all through the composition, in which both the horse and the mountain are seen in an oblique position, which gives the image a certain dynamism. In addition, you can appreciate the way in which it reinforces the protagonism of the figure, making it contrast enormously with its red tones and flanks against a blue and grayish sky.
Undoubtedly, this is a piece of apparatus like others made by David, such as the one dedicated to the Coronation of Napoleon. Some works in which the objective of magnifying the character prevails more than his interest in being a chronicler of his time, as if it happens in other of his creations such as the Ball Game Oath, which represents a key episode of the French Revolution with which he identified much more than with the figure of the emperor.