Friday, June 30, 2006

Napoleon on Google

At first, I was going to just post images of Napoleon Crossing the Alps, the iconic one by Jean-Louis David(1801), and of the less well-known Paul Delaroche painting of the same name from the late 1840s, without comment, the juxtaposition being sufficient as a sort of Gestalt/implied comment.

In addition to being less well-known, the Delaroche is decidely less heroic in its style, and was in fact commisioned by an Englishman(hmmm...). But when I looked at my image search results for the David, I decided that reflecting on the search was more interesting. It's clearly impossible to duplicate a work of art on the internet. I'm enrolled in a couple of internet courses right now, as it so happens, and for the most part I prefer that method, possibly because I spent so much time over the years in classrooms, and didn't really start to learn about computers until I was 35. Nevertheless some aspects of experiential learning simply can't be duplicated, "essentially" or otherwise, on the computer.

Look at all the 'versions' of David's Napoleon are on this reproduction of my second page of image searching. In some the sky looks somber and threatening, in others it's sunny. Some images de-emphasize the ordinary foot-soldiers unheroically slogging in the background, the ones who made Napoleon a hero, while in others they are clearer, and obviously David didn't just put them in there out of a desire to stay busy(keep in mind, the actual painting is a massive eight and a half feet high.)

Napoleon Crossing the Alps painted by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), oil on canvas, 259 x 221 cm (8' 6" x 7' 3"), 1801, Musée national du château de Malmaison.