The Objects

2nd Jul 1815

Source: / BnF nationale de France

Delavigne praising Napoleon

Contributed by: Marion Joassin

This is an allegory of Napoleon’s radiance by Adam Victor (1801-1866), dated to the July Monarchy. The statue in the middle represents Napoleon Bonaparte, standing on the top of the Vendôme Column. On a rainbow we can recognize the main topics which make up the Napoleonic legend, with illustrations of different stages of Napoleon’s life including the troops crossing the St Bernard pass, Austerlitz, Napoleon ranging a canon, and Waterloo. Under the statue is drawn the Legion of honour.

The quote chosen to reinforce the glorious image conveyed by the engraving is from a poem entitled ‘A Napoleon’ (To Napoleon) by the poet and playwright Casimir Delavigne (1793-1843) :

‘Ton souffle du chaos faisait sortir les lois ;
Ton image insultait aux dépouilles des rois.
Et, debout sur l'airain de leurs foudres guerrières,
Entretenait le ciel du bruit de tes exploits’

(Your breath from the chaos made the laws come out; / Your image insulted the Kings’ remains. / And, standing on the bronze of their warriors’ lightning, / Spoke to the sky about the echo of your exploits.’)

In 1815, Delavigne was only 22 years old, he was not yet famous but the 100 days probably helped his poetical project to mature, especially in the case of les Messéniennes (1818). Delavigne was interested in what Napoleon embodied, by his figure as a leader behind whom the French people could gather. This fits the conception Delavigne had of the Poet’s mission which was, according to him, to unify the French people.