The J. Paul Getty Museum

Napoleon at the Battlefield of Eylau

Object Details


Napoleon at the Battlefield of Eylau


Attributed to Antoine-Jean Gros (French, 1771 - 1835)






Pen and black and dark brown ink over graphite

Object Number:



27 × 44.8 cm (10 5/8 × 17 5/8 in.)

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Object Description

On February 8, 1807, Napoleon fought a bloody, indecisive battle against combined Russian and Prussian forces near Eylau, a town in East Prussia on the Polish border. Five weeks later, the director of the Musée Napoleon announced a competition for the commission to paint the Emperor on the battlefield the day after the actual fighting. The director ordered the artists to show the Emperor surveying the battlefield and directing his troops to assist the wounded. A specific story was to be included, involving a wounded Lithuanian soldier who offered his allegiance to the Emperor if he would heal him.

Scholars believe this drawing was made by Antoine-Jean Gros as a preliminary study for an oil sketch that eventually won him the commission for the final painting, now in the Musée du Louvre. The artist quickly and loosely sketched his early ideas in pencil first and then drew over the outlines in thick black ink. He placed the Emperor Napoleon in the center of the scene, riding among the wounded and dying. The wounded Lithuanian soldier reaches up to attract Napoleon's attention as he approaches. This compositional sketch concentrates on the figures' positions and gestures rather than details of costume and facial expressions.

- 1870

Pierre Defer, French, 1798 - 1879, by inheritance to his son-in-law Henri Dumesnil, 1870.

1870 -

Henri Dumesnil, 1823 - 1898 [sold, Defer-Dumesnil sale, Hôtel Drouot, May 10-12, 1900, lot 154.]

- 1983

Art Market (Lausanne, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983.

Exposition 1884 (1884)
  • École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris), 1884
18th and 19th Century Drawings (March 15 to May 29, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), March 15 to May 29, 1994
Classicism and Neoclassicism in French Drawing, 1600-1860 (October 25, 1994 to January 8, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), October 25, 1994 to January 8, 1995
The Compositional Drawing from the 16th to the 19th Century (April 16 to June 30, 1996)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 16 to June 30, 1996
Dominique-Vivant Denon (October 18, 1999 to January 17, 2000)
  • Musée du Louvre (Paris), October 18, 1999 to January 17, 2000
To Create a Living Art: 19th Century Drawings (May 1 to July 15, 2001)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), May 1 to July 15, 2001
A Revolutionary Age: Drawing in Europe, 1770-1820 (January 18 to May 1, 2005)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 18 to May 1, 2005