Nous avons nommé et nommons M. David notre premier peintre.*

THUS, in French blunt enough to be understood throughout his empire, Napoleon Bonaparte raised Jacques-Louis David to the heights. The Emperor's "first painter" had tasted glory before: a tradesman's son, he took part in the French Revolution, happily sketched victims going to the guillotine and became virtual art dictator of the republic under Robespierre. After Robespierre's downfall, he spent seven months behind bars. In 1804, the year of Napoleon's decree, David was 56 and a bit tired of ups and downs. Still, the emperor could not have made' a better choice.

The portrait...

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