Museum Home Past Exhibitions Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile

February 1–April 24, 2005 at the Getty Center

HomeOverviewEventsPublicationsYour Reaction
Prison Napoleon Portraits Exile Timeline

Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825) lived at a time of political and social turmoil. Explore the events of his age in the timeline below.

Ancien Regime, 1748-1789French Revolution, 1789-1799Age of Napoleon, 1799-1815Era of Exile, 1815-1830

1799 Napoleon takes power in a coup d'etat, becoming First Consul of France. Napoleon meets David in Paris and quickly enlists him as his image-maker.

What was David's relationship to Napoleon?

Bonaparte Crossing the Alps / David

David causes controversy by charging admission to see his new work The Intervention of the Sabine Women, which offers a message of restabilization and reconciliation.

David's designs for Napoleon's costume are rejected as being too frilly and not sufficiently military.

1800 Napoleon crosses the Alps and defeats Austria at the Battle of Marengo in Italy.

Napoleon names David as Government Painter without consulting him. David declines the position because the title is not grand enough.

1802 Napoleon becomes Consul for life and virtual dictator of France.

Pavilion Mollien, the Louvre

1803 The Muséum National des Arts at the Louvre is renamed the Musée Napoleon. It is the largest museum in the world.

Napoleon Crowning Himself / David

1804 Napoleon crowns himself emperor in the presence of the pope.

David is appointed First Painter to the new emperor and commissioned to paint the Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine. The enormous painting will take four years to complete.

Read a description of the coronation.

1805 Napoleon wins the battle of Austerlitz on December 2 against Russia and Austria. He is crowned king of Italy.

Napoleon loses the battle with Britain to control the seas.

1806 Napoleon defeats Prussia and becomes ruler of most of Germany.

Napoleon at Eylau / Gros

1807 David's devoted student Antoine-Jean Gros commemorates the victorious Battle of Eylau in a drawing and painting.

Contemptuous of the Insults / Goya

1808 Napoleon occupies Spain. Five years of guerilla warfare ensue.

1810 Frustrated at not receiving official commissions, David paints several portraits of his family.

1812 Napoleon begins his invasion of Russia. He reaches Moscow, but most of his soldiers are killed.

Napoleon's officials consult David about their design for the new military flags, known as eagles.

1813 Napoleon loses against a coalition of anti-French forces at the Battle of Leipzig.

French forces are expelled from Spain with the help of the English army.

Marguerite-Charlotte David / David

David paints his only portrait of his wife.


1814 Napoleon abdicates and is banished to Elba. Louis XVIII, brother of the executed Louis XVI, becomes king.


David finishes Leonidas at Thermopylae, a painting he has been working on for over 15 years.

Learn more about David's Leonidas series.

1815 Napoleon escapes from exile and returns to Paris, where the army welcomes him as a leader. David supports his return to power. Napoleon reigns for 100 days before being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium.

Napoleon abdicates and the Bourbon King Louis XVIII returns to power. Napoleon is exiled to St. Helena, an island off the coast of Africa.

France returns the works of art confiscated from other European countries during the Revolutionary wars.