Napoleon Bonaparte and his epoch
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Meynier Charles

Parisian painter and collector born on 25 November 1768. His father intended that he should become a tailor, but he showed an early love for drawing and was allowed to study with the engraver Pierre-Philippe Choffard. He was a proficient student but nevertheless wished to become a painter, so his elder brother Meynier St-Phal, an actor at the Comédie-Française in Paris, paid for him to train from 1785 with François-André Vincent, who then enjoyed a considerable reputation. In 1789 he won the Prix de Rome for Joseph Recognized by his Brothers (1789), jointly with Anne-Louis Girodet. The events of the French Revolution prevented him spending the usual five years in Rome, but his time there (till 1793) allowed him to make numerous studies of antique sculpture. He returned to Paris during the Reign of Terror and started to produce large Neo-classical works. In 1793 he entered a competition set by the Committee of Public Safety for the best work on a theme from the French Revolution. Taking the competition itself as his subject, he painted France Encouraging Science and the Arts, a classically inspired work in which the generalized features of the figures, with prominent noses and chins, are characteristic of his style. The painting won a prize, though not the first prize, which was won by François Gérard, and thereafter Meynier rapidly established a reputation. He made his début at the Salon in 1795. Under the First Empire he received several public commissions for works celebrating Napoleons victories. In 1806 he produced a series of drawings (Paris, Louvre) for bas-reliefs and sculptures to ornament the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Paris, the monumental entrance to the Tuileries that was built to celebrate Napoleons victories of 1805. The arch was designed by Pierre-François Léonard Fontaine and Charles Percier, and Meyniers designs were sculpted by a team that included Pierre Cartellier, Clodion, Louis-Pierre Deseine, Jacques Philippe Le Sueur (17571830) and Claude Ramey. In 1808 he painted Marshal Ney and the Soldiers of the 76th Regiment Retrieving their Flags from the Arsenal of Inspruck [sic], one of 18 works commissioned in 1806 to illustrate Napoleons German campaign. Other similarly large-scale works were commissioned from such artists as Antoine-Jean Gros, François Gérard, and Girodet. The work, which depicts the retrieval in 1805 of three flags that had been lost in the campaign of 1800, was highly praised at the Salon of 1808. In 1807 he was one of 26 artists who entered the competition to paint a scene from the recently fought Battle of Eylau. His Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau (1807) won one of the two honorable mentions; the competition was won by Gros with Napoléon sur le champ de bataille d'Eylau, 9 Février 1807 (1808). In the foreground of this bloody battle scene Meynier included numerous nude corpses, in rather slavish accordance with classical ideals (the corpses of Gros wore their uniforms).

Manama, 1972, Return to Lobau

Ras al-Khaima, 1970, Napoleon after the Battle of Aspern


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