I crossed the French border last summer, visited of course Les Invalides and bought a nice 25 euro souvenir in a shop near the Sacré Coeur.
To honour the Emperor who defied the French and Italian lockdown I decided to paint him this week. He looked so… nude. Not like David meant him to be.
It’s a polyresin statuette – a little giant. Top to bottom 16cm/6,5 inch. Huge, if 6mm is your hobby. Online available here for 18,90 euro.
David, Napoleon’s pet painter, made 5 different versions, some with a white horse, one with a brown horse. The brown horse hangs in Berlin now. Others elsewhere.
The equestrian pose is classic, and classic propaganda btw. The true story is that Napoleon crossed the Alps on a mule, as painted by Paul Delaroche 50 years later.
Colour-wise, David’s Napoleon in an orange mantle on an imperial white horse looks bleak in comparison with the strongman in a deep red mantle on a balanced brown beast in the Berlin painting. Good contrast. More harmony. Is It Because I’m Brown?, the pretty horse asked? Yes it is.
Napoleon, stage by stage
I super-highlighted the model and studied how to paint horse eyes and hooves.
I thought about the pros and cons of Quickshading (compared to washed, inks and highlights). In the end I decided that a warm, uniform shade of Quickshade Strong Tone (medium brown) would be an excellent finish, better than endless shading, subshading and detail highlighting. Know your limits. But use tricks to reach them.
So I superhighlighted the miniature, in particular super-highlighting the manes, some muscles, the mantle and the flesh. I inked the mantle with red, then with contrast paint, and accentuated with orange red. I checked a facepainting blog and roughly followed that advice. Trembling, I opened the tin.
I often dip, but had never Quickshaded such a large miniature/statuette. So I begged the ghost of David for mercy. The result exceeded my expectations.
As you see the flat colours came to life. The stiff resin horse became an animal. The mantle nearly moved.
I finished the face (nose and cheeks a bit too white) and went to bed, happy and satisfied. Napoleon was the greatest – at least the greatest miniature I’ve ever painted!