Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1800
This piece was painted as propaganda, reinforcing Napoleon’s might and control in the face of hardships. In reality, Napoleon crossed the Alps lead on a mule by a guide on a beautiful day.
Napoleon also refused to sit for the painting, due to his inability to sit still and his preference that the painting portray his character rather than his physical appearance. This lead David to diverge from realism and focus on political iconography.
David used simple geometric forms to create the composition. Napoleon and the horse appear within a circle delineated by the horse’s tail and the tip of Napoleon’s cloak, with the pommel of the sword at the center. Napoleon and his horse create a dynamic Z shape in the center of the circle while the opposing diagonals of the mountains and the clouds reinforce the feeling of movement.