The Distribution of the Eagle Standards Jacques Louis David Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Distribution of Eagle Standards was an oil painting on a canvas done by Jacques Louis David in 1810. The painting was a depiction of the military ceremony that was held by Napoleon in 1804 after he assumed power as the Emperor of France.

Napoleon used the ceremony in his effort to revive the military ethos witnessed during the Roman Empire. The title of the painting comes from its French name called Serment de l'armée fait à l'empereur après la distribution des aigles au champ de Mars, 5 décembre 1804. In English, it translates to an oath by the army to their emperor after the eagles were distributed at the Mars field on December 5, 1804. Today, the image is part of the Château de Versailles collection displayed at Château de Versailles. In the same location, there is also a similar image by David depicting the beautiful ceremony.

This ceremony took place after Napoleon was coronated as the emperor. The eagles were regiments of the French army based on the Roman Aquila. They were raised from different departments in France and intended to give some pride to the soldiers. In an early sketch of the image, David included a winged figure on top of the image. The figure is said to be Nike, the goddess of victory. It also included the image of his wife, Josephine.

However, Napoleon objected to the inclusion of the winged figure and his wife in the image. He said that the goddess was unrealistic. As for the wife, he was preparing to divorce her, for she could not produce an heir for him. The final image shows Napoleon blessing the standards that are held towards him. He was imitating the classical heroes of the old when they were addressing their troops.

David was a neoclassic painter. Neoclassicism was a revival of the classic antiquity inspired by the classical period of painting in the Roman and Greek period. Someofthe characteristics of the neoclassic images that were seen in his work were the inclusion of mythical beings, although Napoleon later suggested the removal of the image. He also included hints into the Roman culture as the depiction of soldiers and arrangement of the stage.

The styles included in the lighter motifs, flatter and relief images. In addition, the subjects in the image were painted in monotones and rather earth hues. He has taken time to add colour to the sky and the uniforms of the soldier. The neoclassical type of painting provides a rustic beauty of Pompeii red while showcasing the splendour of the events. The draping and curtains along with the banners on the side, shows the sheer size of the event. It gives an image of the greatness of Napoleon, his military strength and the pride that came with the position of an emperor. The image has great military connotations and an awesome show of class.