The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of February 25, 2018

Portrait of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, 1841

enamel on copper, gilt metal and plush mount in a turned wood frame, Framed: 13.5 x 11.5 cm (5 5/16 x 4 1/2 in.); Unframed: 6.6 x 5 cm (2 9/16 x 1 15/16 in.). Gift of Mabel Porozynski in honor and remembrance of Eugene Porozynski 2000.106

Unlike fragile portrait miniatures painted in watercolor on vellum or ivory, which are prone to cracking, fading, and flaking, enamels are resilient, impervious to the effects of light, and retain their striking original colors over time. Partly for this reason enamel was considered ideal for reproducing famous paintings and treasured portraits in a reduced and luminous form. The complicated and labor-intensive process of enameling required the artist to fire numerous layers of colored metal oxide at different temperatures. This process made it difficult to produce a faithful portrait likeness, though masters of the medium were able create portraits of remarkable subtlety imbued with the sitter's personality. The desire for portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte helped to create a market for miniatures that William Essex was fueling long after the emperor's death.

Inscribed in enamel on verso: "Napoleon Buonaparte Painted by W. Essex. Jan 1841 Enamel painter to Her Majesty after a min.e painted expressly for the Empress Marie Louise by T.B.T. Duchesne. D 1814"

Main European Rotation (Gallery 202), July 23, 2013 - May 20, 2014.

The Cleveland Museum of Art (11/10/2013 - 2/16/2014); "Disembodied: Portrait Minatures and their Contemporary Relatives"

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

Library materials about William Essex (1)

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