Napoléon Assis

  • Designer / Sculptor

    Designed under the supervision of Dominique-Vivant Denon (1747-1825)

    Modelled by Antoine Mouton, called Moutony (1765-1835)

  • Detail

    Plaster, with internal wooden supports; patinated, with traces of gilding

    43.2 x 29.2 x 29.2 cm

    French (Paris), probably 1808

  • Collection

    Private collection

  • Notes

    The exact status of this plaster remains unclear. It appears to be unrecorded before now, and no provenance has been established.  It may well, however, represent a maquette or presentation model in advance of its manufacture in gilt bronze.

    In 1807 Napoleon requested the director of Musée Napoléon (Louvre), Dominique-Vivant Denon, to commission a ‘statuette en petite proportion…’ which in a letter dated 15 August 1808 was noted as being ‘dans le costume civil… dans la proportion de dix-huit pouces [42 cm], sa figure assise près d’une table sur laquelle, un compas à la main, V.M. est occupée à prendre les distances sur une carte géographique. Modèle de cette petite statuette [the present plaster?] est fait…’ (quoted from Gérard Hubert and Guy Ledoux-Lebard, Napoléon portraits contemporains bustes et statues, Paris, 1999, p. 199). By 1809 three versions were known: one each in silver, gilt-bronze and bronze. An example was lot 717 in the 1826 Denon sale, where it was noted that six casts existed (see Hubert and Ledoux-Lebard, op. cit., p. 200).  Casts appear on the market from time to time, for example in bronze at Ossenat, Fontainebleau (2 December 2007, lot 238) and in gilt-bronze at Artcurial-Briest-Poulain-F. Tajan, from the Ledoux-Lebard collection, (20 June 2006, lot 184).  Other examples cited by Hubert and Ledoux-Lebard include bronze casts at Fontainebleau, Malmaison and Woburn Abbey.

    The significance of Mouton’s Napoléon Assis for Denon is attested to in Benjamin Dix’s 1811 Portrait allégorique de Vivant Denon (Louvre), in which a version of this work is prominently displayed (see Pierre Rosenberg and Marie-Anne Dupuy, Dominique-Vivant Denon: L’oeil de Napoléon, Paris, 1999, no. 611).

    Of particular interest to furniture historians are the table and chair, doubtless designed by Denon (see David Watkin and Philip Hewat-Jaboor, eds, Thomas Hope Regency Designer, New Haven and London, 2008, cat. no. 100).