Cultural depictions of Napoleon

Cultural depictions of Napoleon
Napoleon is often represented in his green colonel uniform of the Chasseur à Cheval, with a large bicorne and a hand-in-waistcoat gesture. Statue in Les Invalides.
A French Empire mantel clock representing Mars and Venus, an allegory of the wedding of Napoleon I and Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. By the famous bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire, ca. 1810.

Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French, has become a worldwide cultural icon generally associated with tactical brilliance, ambition and political power. His distinctive features and costume have made him a very recognizable figure in popular culture.

He has been portrayed in many works of fiction, his depiction varying greatly with the author's perception of the historical character. In the 1927 film Napoleon, young general Bonaparte is portrayed as a heroic visionary. On the other hand, he has been occasionally reduced to a stock character, depicted as short and bossy, sometimes comically so. The historical accuracy of Napoleon being short is questionable, but he certainly was not as short as commonly depicted.



  • St Helena (1936) by RC Sherriff


  • Napoleon is an important character in Tolstoy's classic novel, War and Peace, where considerable space is devoted to Tolstoy's interpretation of his historical role. He consequently also appears in the adaptations and films of this novel, listed in the following section.
  • Napoleon features prominently in the BBC Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventure World Game, where the Second Doctor must avert a plot to change history so that Napoleon is victorious. In an alternate timeline created by the assassination of the Duke of Wellington prior to Waterloo, Napoleon is persuaded to march on to Russia after the victory of Waterloo, but he dies shortly afterwards, his empire having become so overextended that the various countries collapse back into the separate nations they were before, thus degenerating into a state of perpetual warfare. (This situation is made worse due to the intervention of the Doctor's old enemies the Players).
  • C. S. Forester's Hornblower series of novels are mostly set during the Napoleonic Wars, in particular book 9 of the series, Commodore Hornblower focusing on the French invasion of Russia and the subsequent defence of Riga from the period of 1812 onwards, and book 10 Lord Hornblower dealing with events in France up to the defeat of Napoleon by Wellington at Waterloo.

Film and television

Note: the name immediately following the title of the film is the name of the actor portraying Napoleon

Music and songs

  • The Tori Amos song "Josephine" from her 1999 album To Venus and Back is sung from the viewpoint of Napoleon during his unsuccessful invasion of Russia.
  • The Mark Knopfler song "Done with Bonaparte" from his 1996 album Golden Heart is sung from the viewpoint of a soldier in Napoleon's army. The song recalls the soldier's many battles serving in Napoleon's Grande Armée.
  • The Ani DiFranco song "Napoleon" satirizes the desire to continuously "conquer"; more specifically musicians who sign with big labels, thus employing "an army of suits" in order to "make a killing" rather than just "make a living".
  • The Al Stewart song "The Palace of Versailles", from his 1978 album Time Passages, is filled with references and allusions to the French Revolution. One line specifically references Napoleon: "Bonaparte is coming/With his army from the south".
  • Swedish Pop group ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest 1974 with the song "Waterloo", which uses the battle as a metaphor for a person surrendering to love similar to how Napoleon surrendered at Waterloo.
  • The song "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay is loosely based on Napoleon's reign.
  • During the Napoleonic Wars, a nursery rhyme warned children that Bonaparte ravenously ate naughty people.[1]
  • Bright Eyes recorded a song called "Napoleon's Hat" for Lagniappe, an album released by Saddle Creek Records to raise funds for the Red Cross' Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
  • The Charlie Sexton song "Impressed" references Napoleon and Josephine (from Pictures for Pleasure)
  • Napoleon was the topic of many Sea Shanties following his death, most notably the song Boney was a Warrior
  • Napoleon figures in one episode of Pinky and the Brain entitled "Napoleon Brainaparte." While France awaits Napoleon's triumphant return from Austria, Brain develops a recipe for exploding crepe-suzettes in an effort to conquer France. He uses the recipe in a cooking class and when the crepes explode, he is arrested. When he is taken to prison, however, his luck begins to change when people mistake him for Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon eventually returns and is, typically, very short and temperamental. His sounds like Marlin Brando, who played Napoleon in the movie Desiree.

Computer and Video Games

The campaigns of Napoleon have been depicted in the sixth installment of the Total War (series) series Napoleon: Total War. Player have a chance to follow Napoleon's Italian, Egyptian or Russian campaigns.

Other references in popular culture

  • Psychonauts, a video game developed by Double Fine Productions, features a level in which the player is to aid the future kin of Napoleon Bonaparte in a board game which was based on the battle of Waterloo.

Napoleon's height

A caricature depicting a diminutive Napoleon

British propaganda of the time depicted Napoleon as of smaller than average height (see contemporary caricature right) and the image of him as a small man persists in modern Britain. His actual height was about 1.7m (5 feet 7 inches), average height for the time or slightly taller.[2] Confusion has sometimes arisen because of different values for the French inch (pouce) of the time (2.7 cm) and for the Imperial inch (2.54 cm).[3]

Napoleon's nickname of le petit caporal has added to the confusion, as some non-Francophones have mistakenly interpreted petit by its literal meaning of "small". In fact, it is an affectionate term reflecting on his camaraderie with ordinary soldiers. Petit ami and petite amie are French for "boyfriend" and "girlfriend", and mon petit chou ["my little cabbage"] is a term of affection.

Napoleon also surrounded himself with the soldiers of his elite guard, required to be 1.83 m (6 ft) or taller.

Whether truly short or not, Napoleon's name has been lent to the Napoleon complex, a colloquial term describing an alleged type of inferiority complex which is said to affect some people who are physically short. The term is used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives.

Napoleonic delusions of grandeur

Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the most famous humans in the Western world. As delusional patients sometimes believe themselves to be an important or grandiose figure (see Delusion), he was a notable object of such delusions.

This idea has often been used in popular culture:

  • In the 1922 film Mixed Nuts, Stan Laurel plays a book salesman whose only volume for sale is a biography of Napoleon. When the character receives a blow to the head, he comes to believe that he is Napoleon and is subsequently admitted to a mental institution.[4]

This cliché has itself been parodied:

  • The award-winning video game Psychonauts features a mental patient locked in an obsessive mindgame with Napoleon, who is fighting for his mind.
  • In The Emperor's New Clothes, Ian Holm plays Napoleon who stumbles into the grounds of an asylum and finds himself surrounded by other "Napoleons" - he cannot reveal his identity for fear of being grouped with the deluded.[6] Holm also played a less-than-serious Napoleon in the 1981 film Time Bandits.
  • The Discworld novel Making Money features a character who believes himself to be Lord Vetinari, imitating Vetinari's mannerisms and entertaining delusions of grandeur. It is later revealed that the local hospital has an entire ward for people with the same delusion, where they engage in competitions to determine who is the "real" Vetinari.
  • In an episode of cult 1960s British TV sci-fi show The Prisoner called "The Girl Who Was Death", which unusually for the series was a light-hearted comedy tale parodying the spy thriller genre, the villain Dr. Schnipps (Kenneth Griffith) believed that he was Napoleon and acted accordingly, at one point asking the protagonist Number Six (Patrick McGoohan), "You're not the Duke of Wellington, are you?"
  • In an episode of Night Court, Judge Harry Stone (Harry Anderson) is placed in a jail cell along with a number of 'mentally disturbed' inmates all dressed as Napoleon. His court defense attorney (played by (Markie Post) sees him and exclaims "Oh sir. They put you in with the little generals".


  1. ^ "Bogeyman", "Period glossary", Retrieved 07-03-2007.
  2. ^ Napoleon's height was put at just over 5 pieds 2 pouces by three French sources (his valet Constant, General Gourgaud, and Francesco Antommarchi at Napoleon's autopsy) which, using the French measurements of the time, equals around 1.69m. ("La taille de Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoleon Bonaparte's height)". 2002-11-25. Retrieved 2008-05-28. ) Two English sources (Andrew Darling and John Foster) put his height at around 5 ft 7 ins, equivalent, on the Imperial scale, to 1.70m. This would have made him around average height for a Frenchman of the time. ("La taille de Napoléon (Napoleon's height)". La Fondation Napoléon. Retrieved 2008-05-30.  "How tall was Napoleon?". La Fondation Napoléon. Retrieved 2005-12-18. ) Nonetheless, some historians have claimed Napoleon would have been measured with a British measure at his autopsy, since he was under British control at St Helena, implying the 5 ft 2 ins is an Imperial measure, equal to about 1.58 meters. On the other hand, Francesco Antommarchi, Napoleon's personal physician, despised the English, considered their touch "polluting", and may never have used their yardstick to measure his emperor. (Antommarchi, F. G (1826). The Last Days of Napoleon: Memoirs of the Last Two Years of Napoleon's Exile. London: H.Colburn. pp. p157. Retrieved 2007-11-01. )
  3. ^ "Weights and Measures". Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  4. ^ Garza, Janiss, Allmovie. "Mixed Nuts (1925)", Review Summary, The New York Times. Retrieved 09-25-2006.
  5. ^ "Napoleon Bunny-part", Scripts, Delenea's Bugs Bunny Page. Retrieved 07-18-2007.
  6. ^ French, Philip (The Observer). "The Emperor's New Clothes", The Guardian, 02-04-2004. Retrieved 07-19-2006.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cultural depictions — may refer to any of the following articles: Cultural depictions of Alexander the Great Cultural depictions of Tony Blair Cultural depictions of Julius Caesar Cultural depictions of cats Cultural depictions of Charles I of England Cultural… …   Wikipedia

  • Cultural depictions of George Washington — George Washington at Princeton, by Charles Willson Peale, 1779 This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it. George Washington has inspired artistic and cultural works for more than two hun …   Wikipedia

  • Cultural depictions of Joan of Arc — Joan of Arc statue at Place des Pyramides, Paris by Emmanuel Frémiet, 1874 Joan of Arc has inspired artistic and cultural works for nearly six centuries. The following lists cover various media to include items of historic interest, enduring… …   Wikipedia

  • Napoleon — For other uses, see Napoleon (disambiguation). Napoleon I …   Wikipedia

  • Napoleon I of France bibliography — This article covers nonfiction. For fictional representations see Cultural depictions of Napoleon I of France. Napoleon I of France bibliography is a selective list of scholarly works. Napoleon I of France has been the subject of more biographies …   Wikipedia

  • Maximilien Robespierre — Robespierre c. 1790, (anonymous), Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France Deputy and member of the Committee of Public Safety In office 27 July 1793 – 27 …   Wikipedia

  • Marquis de Sade — De Sade redirects here. For the 1969 film, see De Sade (film). Marquis de Sade Portrait of the Marquis de Sade by Charles Amédée Philippe van Loo (c. 1761), the only portrait that Sade actually sat for. Born 2 June 1740(1740 06 02) Paris, France …   Wikipedia

  • Jesus myth theory — The Resurrection of Christ by Noel Coypel (1700). Jesus myth theorists see this as one of a number of stories about dying and rising gods. Description The …   Wikipedia

  • Queen Victoria — For other uses, see Queen Victoria (disambiguation). Victoria …   Wikipedia

  • Mary of Scotland (film) — Mary of Scotland movie poster Directed by John Ford Produced by …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”