Prince Napoleon (1822-1891)

Prince Napoleon (1822-1891)

Napoléon-Joseph-Charles-Paul Bonaparte, Prince Napoleon (1822-1891).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Prince Napoleon, nicknamed "Plon-Plon" by his entourage, was the son of Jerome, King of Westphalia, and his second wife, Princess Catherine of Wurtemberg. He was particularly proud of his resemblance to his uncle Napoleon I.

Image Analysis

As Leon Lagrange wrote in the Gazette of Fine Arts in 1861 about this portrait: “Painter of style, in the presence of natures devoid of style, [Flandrin] only experienced a vague impression… Here no more hesitation: he places himself in front of the model, he sacrifices anything that would only be episodic. The head alone dominates. The body is there only to support her, the arms only to brace the powerful torso on which she rests. The tone fades. The model focuses on specifying only the characteristic planes. "The immediacy with which the model appears to be represented and the strength of this presence are reminiscent of the famous portrait of Mr. Bertin (Musée du Louvre), a famous work by Ingres produced in 1832 while Flandrin was studying in the master's studio.


Exhibited at the Salon of 1861, this portrait received an enthusiastic reception from critics. Edmond About, in his Salon of 1861 expressed this glowing judgment: "If all the documents of history were to perish, posterity would find in this painting the whole of Prince Napoleon. Here he is, this declassified Caesar whom nature has cast into the mold of the Roman Emperors, and whom fortune has condemned to this day to fold his arms on the steps of a throne. The general admiration aroused by this portrait clearly shows that the public of the Second Empire expected artists to go beyond the technical perfection considered essential to a cultivated art, a psychological truth or, failing that, a deep sincerity. Flandrin's success lies in its ability to meet these requirements.

  • imperial dynasty
  • portrait
  • Second Empire
  • Napoleon III


Louis GIRARD Napoleon III Paris, Fayard, 1986, rééd.Hachette coll. “Pluriel”, 1993.CollectifCat.exp.Hippolyte, Auguste and Paul Flandrin: a pictorial fraternity in the 19th century Paris, RMN, 1984

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, "Le Prince Napoléon (1822-1891)"

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