Eugène Samuel Grasset
Lausanne 1841 – Sceaux, France, 1917
Napoleon in Egypt
Colour lithograph mounted on canvas
70.3 x 54.8 cm (sheet), 37.8 x 34.1 cm (image)
Printed by the Century Co., New York
Gift of the Pierre-Henri Aho family in memory of Ben Weider, in honour of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' 150th anniversary, inv. 2010.590
Midway between the fine and the decorative arts, Eugène Grasset’s oeuvre reflects both a nostalgia for the past and a desire for innovation.
The memory of Napoleon was being revived in all fields of art and is to be found in Grasset’s Art Nouveau compositions.
In the first of the works shown here he depicts General Bonaparte in Egypt giving a fiery speech to spur his troops into battle, uttering the famous words: “From the Pyramids yonder, forty centuries look down on you.” The second poster commemorates the victory of Austerlitz. The figure of the heroic general on horseback stands out against a huge cloud of battle smoke, from which rays of sunlight beam down on him, representing the turning tide: the sudden emergence of the sun will lead
the French to victory.
Both these images were published as covers for the American Century Magazine in 1894, coinciding with the publication of extracts from a biography of Napoleon. By the late-19th century the Napoleonic legend had spread to North America.