The Objects

2nd Mar 1815

Source: gallica.bnf.fr, with permission of the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Napoleon's stride towards power

Contributed by: Claire Trévien

The print 'L'enjambée impériale' (the imperial stride) depicts Napoleon making an easy stride from Elba to France, watched by the disconcerted Bourbon family. Two of the figures on the balcony wear extinguishers as hats, marking them out as members of the Order of the Extinguishers (for more on the Order, see yesterday’s entry by Emmanuel de Waresquiel on the pages of 'Le Nain Jaune' newspaper).

The print might have been created in response to an anti-Napoleon print published in 1814, ‘Du haut en bas’ (from on high to down low), which depicts Napoleon over-stretched between Madrid and Moscow. After the 100 days, more caricatures make use of the leitmotif, including ‘Le dernier élan d’un grand homme’ in which Napoleon, dressed as Pierrot, goes into exile, leaping from the ‘Bellérophon’ to the ‘Northumberland’ without waiting for a ladder.

Enjambées were a leitmotif long before Napoleon entered the scene; the print recalls two French Revolutionary prints in which women, Marie-Antoinette and Catherine II, are portrayed taking a stride to escape or conquer. The Revolutionary connotations are rather more negative, however, representing an opportunity to make light of these women’s sexuality by having the crowned heads of Europe look up their skirts.

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