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Artist: Jacques-Louis David
[French painter, 1748-1825]

Title: Napoleon Bonaparte at the St. Bernard Pass

Date: 1801
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 97 x 91 inches (246 x 231 cm)
Location: Musee national du chateau de Malmaison, France

Image size: 3394 x 4134 pixels, 1.4 megabytes
Image source: The Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark
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Jacques-Louis David: Napoleon Bonaparte at the St. Bernard Pass

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Napoleon and his imperial iconography may be as well known today as when he ruled France. This is largely due to the fact that he had some of the finest artists of his day at his disposal, and he used them extensively -- mostly to create a larger-than-life persona, but also as the "spin doctors" of his time. Here's an example from an article I wrote several years ago:

In 1799, during his Syrian campaign, Napoleon's forces stormed Jaffa (now part of Tel Aviv) and defeated the Turkish forces there. In the following days, his men ran amok, raping and killing thousands of civilians. Napoleon himself ordered 3,000 Turkish soldiers who had surrendered to be slaughtered. Then, when the Turks were on the verge of counterattack, Napoleon retreated and left behind some 50 of his own men who had been stricken with plague, after ordering them to be poisoned so that they could not be taken prisoner (French doctors refused to obey the order).

Napoleon, relying so much on the morale of his troops and the popular support of the French people, could have been badly hurt by these horrifying incidents. His response was to commission Antoine-Jean Gros to paint Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Stricken at Jaffa. Thus Napoleon ensured that the most enduring image of the Syrian campaign was the suffering of the French troops and his sympathetic tending to their needs.
- from the article Notorious Portraits
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