The meeting of Emperor Napoleon I and Pope Pius VII, in the forest of Fontainebleau


Jean-Louis Demarne (1752-1829) and Alexandre Hyacinthe Dunouy (1757-1841)
H. 193 cm;L. 228 cm
Oil on canvas
Château de Fontainebleau, Inv 6438
The Pope’s Apartment

The year 1804 saw the official reception of Pope Pius VII in France, invited by the Emperor to attend his coronation at Notre-Dame de Paris. Fontainebleau is the last stop on the Lord Pontiff's long journey to Paris between 25th to 28th November;on this occasion, an apartment in the castle was completely refurbished for his use. Like Charlemagne a thousand years before, Napoleon wanted to establish his political legitimacy in the eyes of Europe – the Pope's presence at his coronation proves that the Catholic Church recognizes his reign.

The crossroads at the Obelisk on the edge of the forest was chosen as the setting for this meeting. The Emperor had dismounted his white horse and was approaching the Holy Father. At its heart, the Obelisk bears witness to an Ancien Regime transformed to make way for a new power – erected in 1785 in honour of Marie-Antoinette and her children, it is topped with the Napoleonic symbol of an eagle proudly overlooking the over the surroundings. It was through Vivant Denon that the genre painter Jean-Louis Demarne was entrusted directly by the Emperor to reproduce this meeting.

2015, Château de Fontainebleau, Pius VII Facing Napoléon. Rome, Paris, Fontainebleau. 1796-1814.
2005, Château de Fontainebleau, The Pope and The Emperor. The Reception of Pius VII By Napoleon at Fontainebleau. 25-28 November 1804.
1999-2000, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Dominique-Vivant Denon. The Eye of Napoleon.

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