Charles Clément, Géricault, étude biographie et critique avec le catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre du maître, Paris, 1879, no. 56, discussed pp. 290-291
Ernest Chesneau, Les Chefs d'école, Paris, 1883, discussed p. 185
Léon Rosenthal, Géricault, Paris, 1905, discussed p. 166
Dr. Bureau, 'Un artiste méconnu, le colonel Langlois, peintre de batailles," Art de Basse-Normandie, 1956, no. 3, illustrated p. 23
Jules and Gilles Buisson, "Géricault et le Mortainais," Revue de l'Avranchin, September 1957, no. 212, illustrated p. 332
Lorenz Eitner, "The Sale of Géricault's studio in 1824," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, February 1959, discussed p. 123, note 7
"London's glimpse at the private J. H. Whitney collection," Art News, New York, January 1961, illustrated p. 36
Philippe Grunchec, L'Opera completa di Géricault, Milan, 1978, no. 51, illustrated p. 92
Lorenz Eitner, Géricault, his Life and Work, London, 1983, discussed pp. 38, 327
Germain Bazin, Théodore Géricault, étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné, vol. III, Paris, 1997, no. 670, illustrated p. 131
Géricault’s passion for horses paralleled his prodigious talent as an artist. Historically remembered for his grand-scale history paintings, Géricault also devoted a large amount of his career to studying and capturing the form and manner of the horse. Although Charles Clément, one of Géricault’s earliest biographers, dates Cheval de Napoleon to 1815, it was most likely painted in 1813 when he was working at the Imperial stables at Versailles. Géricault executed many sketches and several oil studies of Napoleon’s horses during this time. The following year, Napoleon abdicated the throne but returned to power in February of 1815. At this time, Géricault followed the Bourbon King Louis XVIII into exile. Clément catalogued the present work in 1879 with the following text: "Horse of Napoleon. It is white, Arabian, of extremely elegant proportions, saddled, bridled, ready to move off. This picture, which, it is said, earned Géricault a gold medal from the Empress Marie-Louise, is supposed, according to family tradition, to represent a horse of Napoleon which Géricault allegedly painted from nature about 1815" (Charles Clément, Géricault, étude biographie et critique avec le catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre du maître, Paris, 1879, no. 56, p. 290).
Géricault’s unique approach to the equestrian theme lay in his ability to capture the individuality of each horse, rather than focusing on the general characteristics of the breed. Other works such as Twenty-Four Horses in Rear View (see fig. 1) or in Studies of Horses (see fig. 2), for example, reveal the artist’s sympathetic approach toward this subject. In Cheval de Napoleon, Géricault has painted an elegant portrait of the stallion that carried France's conquering leader, abandoning the dramatic historical paintings of charging chasseurs and revolutionaries which characterized much of his career. As John Rewald wrote, "There is an indefinable dignity and pride about the horse which seem to indicate that an Arabian pur sang needs no props to show off its high status" (John Rewald, The John Hay Whitney Collection (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1983, no. 8).
Fig. 1, Théodore Géricault, Twenty-Four Horses in Rear View, 1813-1814, oil on canvas, Paris, Vicomte de Noailles Collection
Fig. 2, Théodore Géricault, Studies of Horses, 1813-1814, pencil on paper, Chicago, The Art Institute
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