Coronation Portrait of Napoleon
Artist: After Andrea Appiani (1754-1817) Italian
Medium: oil on canvas applied of Masonite
1998.01.01 Belmont Mansion Association purchase from donations in Memory of Jane Hancock
According to an 1888 newspaper the Acklen’s painting was imported from France in 1853 and most likely purchased in New Orleans. The story goes on to say that it was one of Joseph Acklen’s favorite pictures. By 1881 it hung in a downstairs bedroom, likely one of the boy’s room.
To have a painting or print of Napoleon hanging in one’s house during this time was not unusual. Americans remained fascinated with Napoleon, large numbers of decorative objects and artist items were made for the American market. Also in the mansion was a print of the Milan Cathedral, where Napoleon was crowned and a print of Arca Della Pac which Napoleon built in Milan.
Napoleon was crowned King of Italy on May 26, 1805 at the Milan Cathedral. The Kingdom of Italy was then Northern Italy with the cities of Milan and Venice. While it was not consider to be a part of the Empire, as was Rome and Genoa, it was a French Territory.
Appiani was commissioned to paint the official coronation portrait. He did five paintings and Napoleon choose this one and the rest were supposedly destroyed by the artist. This painting is now located at Muse’e de l’ d’Aix, Foundation Gourgaud. Andrea Appiani was born in Milan on March 23, 1754 and died there, October 8, 1817. He was a pupil of De Giorgi and of Giudici. Latter he studied in Bologna, Parma, Modena and Florence. Afterward he went repeatedly to Rome and studied the Raphael’s frescoes and became the first fresco painter of his time. After a brilliant career, during which he produced many decorative works for the churches and palaces in Milan he painted several portraits of Napoleon, who greatly favored him. He was stuck by paralysis in 1813.
The Acklen painting was purchased at the estate sale in 1888 by Adelicia’s son Joseph Hays Acklen and eventually moved into his home Acklen Park on West End. When we married Jeannette Tilson in 1890 the original frame was more than likely removed. The painting has descended thru the family. Conservation and restoration of the painting was done 1999 and the ca. 1890 frame was replaced at that time.