Equestrian Bronze of Napoleon I, 1860
Equestrian Bronze of Napoleon I, 1860
Equestrian Bronze of Napoleon I, 1860
Equestrian Bronze of Napoleon I, 1860
Equestrian Bronze of Napoleon I, 1860
Equestrian Bronze of Napoleon I, 1860
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Equestrian Bronze of Napoleon I, 1860

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Height overall: 28cm (11in)

Bronze. Equestrian figure of Napoleon I (1769-1821), being a reduce scale model of the statue in the Place Napoléon, La Roche-sur-Yon (Vendée), Inscribed to the naturalistic base ‘Nieuwerkerke’. Foundry marks of Susse Freres, Paris. Mounted on a black veined marble base. Height of bronze 26cm (10.2in).

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The present bronze is a reduced scale model of Count Nieuwerkerke’s huge equestrian statue formerly at Lyon. The public statue was inaugurated by Prince-President Louis Napoleon in 1852, but was destroyed at the fall of the regime in November 1870 and February 1871. A slightly later version dated 1854, however survives at the centre of place Napoléon in La Roche-Sur-Yon, the main town and prefecture of this Napoleon-founded department, formerly known as Napoleon-Vendée. In 1860 the prestigious Susse Freres foundry in Paris cast reductions in bronze, the present bronze being one example. Another is said to be at the Château de Compiègne.

The sculptor Count Alfred Émilien O'Hara van Nieuwerkerke (1811-1892) was an ardent Bonapartist whose professional success rose and fell with the fortunes of the Second Empire. A Colonel d'État-Major of the National Guard, he supported the coup d'état of 2 December 1851 that brought the President Prince Louis Napoleon to the Imperial throne of France as Emperor Napoleon III. Nieuwerkerke was the son of the Dutch Legitimist officer who returned to Paris with Louis XVIII in 1815 after the Hundred Days. After serving as a page to Charles X in 1825, he entered the Royal Cavalry School at Saumur in 1829. However, as a Legitimist, he abandoned his career on Charles X's fall in July 1830 during the July Revolution of 1830. Following an unsuccessful marriage, doomed in part by his larger than life persona, he discovered sculpture during an Italian sojourn and decided to become a sculptor on returning to France. He studied under Pradier and Baron Carlo Marochetti and soon gained official commissions. He exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1842. In the wake of the elimination of Republican civil servants after the 1848 Revolution, he was made Director-General of Museums at the Louvre in 1849. In 1853 he  became Superintendent des Beaux-Arts of the Emperor's Household and finally in 1870 overseer of the Imperial Museums. At the fall of the Second Empire Nieuwerkerke feared arrest and fled to London, where he negotiated the sale of rare works of art from his personal collection to the South Kensington Museum and the Wallace Collection, allowing him to retire to Lucca, Italy. Nieuwerkerke is also remembered as the lover of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, after her estrangement from her husband Anatoly Nikolaievich Demidov, 1st Prince of San Donato.