Antoine-Jean Gros

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Antoine-Jean Gros
Antoine Jean Gros par Gerard.jpg
Antoine-Jean Gros at age 20, c. 1791
Born16 March 1771 (1771-03-16)
Died25 June 1835 (1835-06-26) (aged 64)
near Meudon, France
Resting placePère Lachaise Cemetery
EducationCollège Mazarin
Known forPainting

Antoine-Jean Gros (French pronunciation: ​[ɑ̃twanʒɑ̃ gʁo]; 16 March 1771 – 25 June 1835), titled as Baron Gros in 1824,[1] was a French painter.[2] His work was in the genres of history and neoclassical painting.

Gros studied under Jacques-Louis David in Paris and began an independent artistic career during the French Revolution. Forced to leave France, he moved to Genoa and witnessed the nearby Battle of Arcole (1796). Inspired by an event during the battle, he produced a portrait of the French commander, Napoleon Bonaparte, then a newly promoted general. The portrait brought Gros to public attention and gained the patronage of Napoleon.

After travelling with Napoleon's army for several years, he returned to Paris in 1799. Gros produced several large paintings of battles and other events in Napoleon's life. These were mostly in a neoclassical style, but Napoléon on the Battlefield of Eylau adopted a more realistic portrayal of the horrors of war. Gros also painted portraits of officers in the French army and members of French high society. After the fall of Napoleon, he shifted his artistic focus and produced more history paintings, which art historians regard as less impressive than his earlier work.

Early life and training[edit]

Equestrian portrait of prince Boris Yusupov, 1809

Born in Paris, Gros began to learn to draw at the age of six from his father, Jean-Antoine Gros,[3] who was a miniature painter, and showed himself as a gifted artist. His mother, Pierrette-Madeleine-Cécile Durand, was also a painter.[4] Towards the close of 1785, Gros, by his own choice, entered the studio of Jacques-Louis David, which he frequented assiduously, continuing at the same time to follow the classes of the Collège Mazarin.[5]

The death of his father, whose circumstances had been embarrassed by the French Revolution, threw Gros upon his own resources in 1791. He now devoted himself wholly to his profession, and he competed (unsuccessfully) in 1792 for the grand prix. Around this time, however, on the recommendation of the École des Beaux Arts, he was employed on the execution of portraits of the members of the National Convention, but disturbed by the development of the Revolution, Gros left France in 1793 for Italy.[5]

Genoa and Bonaparte[edit]

Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole, 1796

He supported himself at Genoa by the same means, producing a great quantity of miniatures and fixés. He visited Florence, but returned to Genoa where he made the acquaintance of Joséphine de Beauharnais. He followed her to Milan, where he was well received by her husband, Napoleon Bonaparte.[5]

On 15 November 1796, Gros was present with the army near Arcola when Bonaparte planted the French tricolor on the bridge. Gros seized on this incident, and showed by his treatment of it (entitled Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole) that he had found his vocation. Bonaparte at once gave him the post of inspecteur aux revues, which enabled him to follow the army, and in 1797 nominated him to the commission charged with selecting the spoils which should enrich the Louvre.[5]


Battle of Abukir, 25 juillet 1799, 1806

In 1799, having escaped from the besieged city of Genoa, Gros made his way to Paris, and in the beginning of 1801 took up his quarters in the Capucins. His esquisse (mock-up), now in the Musée d'Arts de Nantes, for the painting of the Battle of Nazareth gained the prize offered in 1802 by the consuls, but the project was not carried out, owing, it is said,[6] to Napoleon's jealousy of Jean-Andoche Junot, the general in the painting. But Gros was indemnified by a commission to paint Napoleon's own visit to the pest-house of Jaffa, which resulted in Les Pestiférés de Jaffa, now hanging in the Louvre. This was followed in 1806 by Gros's Bataille d’Aboukir, 25 Juillet 1799 (Joachim Murat at the Battle of Abukir) now at Versailles;[7] and in 1808 by his Napoléon sur le champ de bataille d'Eylau, le 9 février 1807 (Napoleon at the battlefield after the Battle of Eylau) now in the Louvre.[8][9] According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, "these three subjects – the popular leader facing the pestilence unmoved, challenging the splendid instant of victory, heart-sick with the bitter cost of a hard-won field – gave Gros his chief title to fame."[5]

Britannica further remarks that as long as the military element remained bound up with French national life, Gros received from it a fresh and energetic inspiration which carried him to the very heart of the events which he depicted; but as the army and its general separated from the people, Gros, called on to illustrate episodes representative only of the fulfilment of personal ambition, ceased to find the nourishment necessary to his genius, and the defect of his artistic position became evident. Trained in the sect of the Classicists, he was shackled by their rules, even when by his naturalistic treatment of types, and appeal to picturesque effect in color and tone, he seemed to run counter to them.[5]

Salon of 1804[edit]

Napoleon at the Pyramids in 1798, 1810
Lieutenant Charles Legrand, c. 1810

At the Salon of 1804, Gros debuted his painting Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa. The painting launched his career as a successful painter. It depicts Bonaparte in Jaffa visiting soldiers infected with the bubonic plague. He is portrayed reaching out to one of the sick, unfazed by the illness. According to Jill Morris, Napoleon commissioned Gros to paint "Bonaparte at the Pest House of Jaffa" (1804) to neutralize British propaganda. The propaganda focused on two episodes of the Egyptian campaign (1798-1800). First when he ordered the massacre of Turkish prisoners. Second when he ordered the death by poison of French soldiers suffering from the plague. The painting showed a compassionate Napoleon visiting the sick at the plague hospital. Morris adds that Gros was probably using the disease as a metaphor for the vanity of Napoleon and his First Empire.[10]

While Bonaparte did actually visit the pesthouse, later, as his army prepared to withdraw from Syria, he ordered the poisoning (with laudanum) of about fifty of his plague-infected men.[11] The painting was commissioned as damage control when word spread of his actions. The painting is in the neoclassical style, though it shows elements such as the lighting and a taste for the exotic that are precursors to the upcoming Romantic ideals.

Later life and death[edit]

In 1810, his Madrid and Napoleon at the Pyramids (Versailles) show that his star had deserted him. His Francis I and Charles V, 1812 (Louvre), had considerable success, but the decoration of the dome of St. Genevieve (begun in 1811 and completed in 1824) is the only work of Gros's later years which shows his early force and vigour, as well as his skill. The "Departure of Louis XVIII" (Versailles), the Embarkation of Madame d'Angoulême (Bordeaux), the plafond of the Egyptian room in the Louvre, and finally his Hercules and Diomedes, exhibited in 1835, testify only that Gros's efforts – in accordance with the frequent counsels of his old master David – to stem the rising tide of Romanticism only damaged his once brilliant reputation.[5]

Again citing the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, "Exasperated by criticism and the consciousness of failure, Gros sought refuge in the gros[ser] pleasures of life." On 25 June 1835, he was found drowned on the shores of the Seine at Meudon, near Sèvres. From a paper which he had placed in his hat, it became known that "tired of life, and betrayed by last faculties which rendered it bearable, he had resolved to end it."[5]


Gros was made a member of the Legion of Honour on 22 October 1808 by Napoleon,[12] after the Salon of 1808, at which he had exhibited the Battle of Eylau.[9] The number of Gros's pupils was very great and was considerably augmented when, in 1815, David quit Paris and gave over his own classes to him.[5]

Under the Bourbon Restoration, Gros became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts,[13] a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, and a member of the Order of Saint Michael. He was granted the title of baron in 1824 by King Charles X of France.[1]

Gros had also been an inspiration to Eugène Delacroix, especially with his work in lithography. The two both worked in the same time period, and both did portraits of Napoleon. However, at one point, Gros had referred to Delacroix's Chios and Missolonghi as "a massacre of art".

G. Dargenty produced a book titled: Les Artistes Celebres ("Famous Artists"), Le Baron Gros, GILBERT WOOD & Co., London.

M. Delcluze gave a brief notice of his life in Louis David et son temps ("Louis David and his times"), and Julius Meyer's Geschichte der modernen französischen Malerei ("History of Modern French Painting") contains what Britannica cites as an excellent criticism on his works.[5]


Image Title Date Dimensions Collection
Antoine Jean Gros, Autoportrait, 1795.jpg Autoportrait 1795 Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Madame Pasteur.jpg Madame Pasteur 1795–1796 The Louvre
Portrait of Madame Bruyere 1796 79 × 65 cm Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
1801 Antoine-Jean Gros - Bonaparte on the Bridge at Arcole.jpg Bonaparte at the Pont d'Arcole 1796 130 × 94 cm Palace of Versailles
The Death of Timophanes 1798 44.4 × 57.6 cm The Louvre
Antoine-Jean Gros 009.jpg Portrait of Christine Boyer c. 1800 214 × 134 cm The Louvre
Antoine-Jean Gros 010.jpg The Battle of Nazareth 1801 136.1 x 196.4 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
Antoine-Jean Gros - Sappho at Leucate - WGA10704.jpg Sappho at Leucate 1801 122 × 100 cm Musée Baron Gérard, Bayeux
Gros - First Consul Bonaparte.png First Consul Bonaparte 1802 205 × 127 cm Musée de la Légion d'honneur
Antoine-Jean Gros - Bonaparte visitant les pestiférés de Jaffa.jpg Bonaparte Visiting the Plague Victims of Jaffa 1804 715 × 523 cm The Louvre
Gros - Gérard-Christophe-Michel Duroc, duc de Frioul (1772-1813).jpg Gérard-Christophe-Michel Duroc, duc de Frioul (1772–1813) 1805 218 × 142 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Bataille d'Aboukir, 25 juillet 1799 - Google Art Project.jpg Battle of Aboukir, 25 July 1799 1806 578 × 968 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau - Google Art Project.jpg Battle of Eylau, 9 February 1807 1807 104.9 × 145.1 cm The Louvre
Pierre Zimmermann.jpg Portrait of the French composer Pierre Zimmermann 1808 118.5 × 91 cm Palace of Versailles
Equestrian Portrait of Jerome Bonaparte.jpg Equestrian portrait of Jérôme Bonaparte c. 1808 321 × 265 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Equestrian portrait of prince Boris Yusupov - Google Art Project.jpg Equestrian portrait of Prince Boris Yusupov 1809 321 × 266 cm Pushkin Museum
Baron Antoine-Jean Gros-Battle Pyramids 1810.jpg Battle of the Pyramids 1810 389 × 311 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros - Capitulation de Madrid, le 4 décembre 1808.jpg Napoleon accepts the surrender of Madrid, 4 December 1808 1810 361 × 500 cm Musée de l'Histoire de France (Versailles)
Antoine-Jean Gros 003.jpg The Horse of Mustapha Pasha c. 1810 89 × 175 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'archéologie de Besançon
Général Claude Juste Alexandre Legrand.jpg Portrait of General Claude Legrand c. 1810 245 × 172 cm Palace of Versailles
Gros, Antoine-Jean - Portrait du second lieutenant Charles Legrand - 1809-1810.jpg Portrait of Second Lieutenant Charles Legrand c. 1810 249 × 162 cm Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Apothéose de st Geneviève 3.jpg The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve 1811–1824 Panthéon de Paris
François I and Charles V Visiting the Church of Saint-Denis 1812 The Louvre
Murat by Gros.jpg Equestrian portrait of Joachim Murat 1812 89 × 175 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'archéologie de Besançon
Gros-General Lariboisière and his son.jpg General Baston de Lariboisière and his son Ferdinand c. 1815 Musée de l'Armée
Gros - Portrait du comte Honoré de La Riboisière (1788-1868).jpg Honoré-Charles Baston de Lariboisière 1815 73 × 59 cm Private collection
Departure of Louis XVIII from the Palace of the Tuileries on the Night of 20 March 1815 1817 405 × 525 cm Palace of Versailles
Antoine-Jean Gros 004.jpg Embarkation of Madame d'Angoulême 1819 326 × 504 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Gros - Jean-Antoine Chaptal.png Count Jean-Antoine Chaptal 1824 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Gros Jean Antoine Portrait of Mademoiselle Recamier.jpg Portrait of Madame Récamier 1825 62.3 × 51.2 cm Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Musée du Louvre 149.jpg The Genius of France Giving Life to the Arts and Protecting Humanity c. 1827 The Louvre
Antoine-Jean-Gros Hercule et Diomède.jpg Hercules and Diomedes 1835 426 × 324 cm Musée des Augustins
Pierre Daru.jpg Portrait of Pierre Daru 19th century 216 × 142 cm Palace of Versailles

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Antoine-Jean Gros | An Introduction to 19th Century Art". Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Ministère de la culture – Baron Gros". Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  3. ^ The Napoleon Series
  4. ^ Profile of Pierrette-Madeleine-Cécile Durand at the Dictionary of Pastellists Before 1800.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gros, Antoine Jean, Baron". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 615.
  6. ^ Fontainas, André (1906). Histoire de la peinture française au XIXme siècle (1801-1900) (in French) (second ed.). Paris: Société du Mercure de France. p. 28. OCLC 431638175.
  7. ^ "Colonial History: The Battle of Aboukir". Art History for Filmmakers.
  8. ^ "Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau". Department of Paintings, The Louvre.
  9. ^ a b Prendergast, Christopher. (1997). Napoleon and History Painting: Antoine-Jean Gros's La Bataille d'Eylau. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-817402-0
  10. ^ P. Jill Morse, "The Medics in A. J. Gros's 'Bonaparte At The Pest House At Jaffa.'" Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850: Selected Papers (2000), pp 147–164.
  11. ^ Peterson, Robert K. D.; "Insects, Disease, and Military History: The Napoleonic Campaigns and Historical Perception"; American Entomologist 41:147–160. (1995) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 March 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retvd 3 26 15
  12. ^ "Ministère de la culture – Base Léonore". Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  13. ^ "Ministère de la culture". Retrieved 12 June 2017.


  • Chu, Petra ten-Doesschate. (2006). Nineteenth-Century European Art. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. pp. 126–127. ISBN 0-13-188643-6

External links[edit]