Bonaparte Distributing a Sword of Honor After the Battle of Marengo, 1803. (And detail.) Antoine-Jean Gros. Oil on canvas, 310 x 250 cm. Reuil-Malmaison, Musée national du château.
Bonaparte, First Consul, 1802. (And detail.) Antoine-Jean Gros. Oil on canvas, 205 x 127 cm. Paris, Musée national de la Légion d’Honneu.
"Bonaparte commissioned a large equestrian portrait of himself distributing a ‘sword of honor’ after the Battle of Marengo. …This painting was once again motivated by a precise aspect of the military ideology of the period. Bonaparte instituted a great many new military honors, decorations, and emblems as part of an effort to motivate his soldiers to fight for their own personal gain and distinction. The distribution of ‘arms of honor’ depicted in Gros’s canvas was superseded in 1802 by the famous Legion of Honor. This was a distinct shift in emphasis from the first years of the Revolution, when such decorations were by and large disdained. Bonaparte’s system of awards was meant to tie soldiers to him and to his regime by giving them a personal stake in his success."
"In 1802 and 1803, Bonaparte also asked Gros for four full-length portraits of himself dressed in the uniform of First Consul. In the first of these…Bonaparte stands with his hand resting on a stack of papers. The topmost document lists the treaties signed by Bonaparte and cites three of his nonmilitary achievements: the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire, the Comices de Lyon, and the Concordat. For this painting, Gros again copied the features of Bonaparte from his Arcole portrait, but the image of the warrior-general in the earlier work was now a thing of the past. His uniform as First Consul shed most military characteristics, and the documents identified him as a peacemaker, statesman, and diplomat.”
—After the Revolution: Antoine-Jean Gros, Painting and Propaganda Under Napoleon, David O’Brien
(So, hi, I have an old, cheap, and very small scanner. Should you be interested in zooooming in on either of these paintings, the PDFs of the scans are here and here. The scans really don’t do the pictures in the book justice, but I still like looking at things supercloseup. If I ever see these paintings in person, I have a terrible feeling I’ll be one of those people the museum guards warn to back away or else.)