Crowning Himself Emperor of France

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In 1804 at Notre Dame, just before the Pope was about to bestow the crown onto Napoleon’s head, Napoleon took it, and placed it on his own head. Not wanting to be beholden to any other power, Napoleon invests himself, leaving the Pope cowering. Because the original crown had been destroyed during the French Revolution, Napoleon had one made in the style of Charlemagne’s to mark a continuity between the two reigns and thus enhance his own legitimacy. Cruikshank renders Josephine and the Pope somewhat grotesquely, thus undermining the very iconography Napoleon hoped would solidify his rule. Contrast the much reduced scale of this image to David’s official rendering of the event, now in the Louvre.