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Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). Coronation of Empress Josephine by Napoleon I at Notre Dame de Paris, 2 December 1804 (1806-1887).

Detail of Napoleon and Josephine Oil on canvas, 6.1 m x 9.31 m. Photo: Peter Willi Reunion des Musees Nationaux/Art Resource, NY. Chateaux de Versailles el de Trianon Versailles, France

"I was always hiding behind the instructor's chair, drawing for the duration of the class," admitted Jacques-Louis David, acknowledging his early artistic bent (1). The orphaned son of a wealthy Paris family, David went on to study art, first under distant relative Francois Boucher, then under gifted teacher and rococo painter Joseph-Marie Vien. Later, in Italy for 5 years, David became engrossed en·gross  
tr.v. en·grossed, en·gross·ing, en·gross·es
1. To occupy exclusively; absorb: A great novel engrosses the reader. See Synonyms at monopolize.

 in archaeology, classical architecture, and mythology, which, along with the paintings of his compatriot com·pa·tri·ot  
1. A person from one's own country.

2. A colleague.

[French compatriote, from Late Latin compatri
 Nicolas Poussin, provided inspiration for his work as leading neoclassical ne·o·clas·si·cism also Ne·o·clas·si·cism  
A revival of classical aesthetics and forms, especially:
a. A revival in literature in the late 17th and 18th centuries, characterized by a regard for the classical ideals of reason, form,
 painter (2).

David's era was the Age of Enlightenment The Enlightenment (French: Siècle des Lumières; German: Aufklärung; Italian: Illuminismo; Portuguese: , whose standard-bearers (David Hume, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Heinrich Heine, and others) revolutionized economics, politics, and religion, steering them away from authoritarian tradition, toward reason and the common good. The arts, abandoning the baroque, relinquished the ornate, aristocratic, and frivolous excesses of rococo. They turned toward nature and heroic morality, and by extension, toward the ancient "apostles of reason," the classics, and their "noble simplicity and calm grandeur." Italy's artistic leadership declined, leaving the role of guardian of Western art to France and the students of Vien (3).

The great political upheavals of the mid-18th century, the American Revolution and the French Revolution, followed the sweeping changes in the world of ideas and ushered in the modern era. David enthusiastically took part in the French Revolution and interpreted the issues of his day in masterpieces drawn from ancient moral dilemmas (The Death of Socrates) and contemporary events (The Death of Marat).

Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power alter a coup d'etat in 1799. A plebiscite plebiscite (plĕb`ĭsīt) [Lat.,=popular decree], vote of the people on a question submitted to them, as in a referendum. The term, however, has acquired the more specific meaning of a popular vote concerning changes of sovereignty, as  in 1802 confirmed his lifetime rule as Consul of France, in preparation for his becoming Emperor of the French Republic. In 1804, in an elaborate ceremony reminiscent or the coronation of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and in the presence of Pope Pius VII Pope Pius VII, OSB (August 14, 1740—August 20, 1823), born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church from March 14, 1800 to August 20, 1823. , Napoleon grasped his sword to his heart and put the crown on his own head (4). David, then official painter to the emperor, was tasked with commemorating the coronation festivities fes·tiv·i·ty  
n. pl. fes·tiv·i·ties
1. A joyous feast, holiday, or celebration; a festival.

2. The pleasure, joy, and gaiety of a festival or celebration.

 at the cathedral of Notre Dame. David's rendition of the event, on this month's cover of Emerging Infectious Diseases, does not dwell on Napoleon's imperial indiscretion in·dis·cre·tion  
1. Lack of discretion; injudiciousness.

2. An indiscreet act or remark.


1. the lack of discretion

. Rather, it portrays the crowning, by the emperor, of his wife Josephine. Josephine's coronation itself is a small part of the massive composition, an enormous group portrait of more than 100 figures (5).

Art has been a powerful instrument of revolutions, and David used it often to portray Napoleon as legendary opponent of absolutism, embodying the quest for truth and liberty. Music has similarly served popular uprisings. Beethoven's Third Symphony, "Eroica," for a brief time referred to as the Bonaparte Symphony, was inspired by Napoleon's heroic promise. This epic symphony, which dramatically captures the spirit of humanity, parallels the complexity of revolutionary passions (6).

In the eyes of the world, as in the eyes of those attending the lavish coronation in David's painting, Napoleon's fall came the moment he assumed imperial status. The laurel leaf crown of Roman emperors was no simple corona. To the champions of equality it symbolized tyranny. David's political entanglement with the Napoleonic era ended in imprisonment Imprisonment
See also Isolation.

Alcatraz Island

former federal maximum security penitentiary, near San Francisco; “escapeproof.” [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 218]

Altmark, the

German prison ship in World War II. [Br. Hist.
 and exile. The dedication to Napoleon in Beethoven's score of the "Eroica" was retracted. And Josephine was banished to make room for Napoleon's true mistress, power.

The crown and its elusive promise have downed many a revolutionary hero, the corona of power often becoming halo of disaster. The same is true at times in nature. Some biologic agents are reminiscent of the sun, whose corona is only visible during a full eclipse. "The coronaviruses, named for their crownlike appearance in which a loosely wound center is neatly surrounded by club-shaped performers, are a case in point. Known animal pathogens for many years, the more than 15 species of coronaviruses in fueled a variety of mammals and birds yet remained largely obscure, until antigenic variation or some other, unknown, cause brought them into the spotlight. An animal pathogen causing zoonotic Zoonotic
A disease which can be spread from animals to humans.

Mentioned in: Zoonosis
 infection in humans or a recombinant of human coronavirus and animal virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Definition

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is the first emergent and highly transmissible viral disease to appear during the twenty-first century.
 virus has brought on a halo of disaster, circling the globe with illness and death

(1.) Brinton WM. An abridged history of Europe “European History” redirects here. For the Advanced Placement course, see AP European History.

The history of Europe describes the human events that have taken place on the continent of Europe.
 [cited 2003 Jul]. Available from: URL URL
 in full Uniform Resource Locator

Address of a resource on the Internet. The resource can be any type of file stored on a server, such as a Web page, a text file, a graphics file, or an application program.
: davidJl.html

(2.) Janson HW, Janson AF. History of art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.; 2001.

(3.) Zuffi S. One thousand years of painting. Spain: Borders Press; 2001.

(4.) Louvre Museum Official Website-Paintings / text. Louis David [cited 2003 Jul]. Available from: URL: http://www.louvre Louvre (l`vrə), foremost French museum of art, located in Paris. The building was a royal fortress and palace built by Philip II in the late 12th cent. .fr/anglais/collec/peint/inv3699/txt3699.htm

(5.) Glesner ES. Ludwig van Beethoven--Symphony no.3, op.55 "Eroica" [cited 2003 Jul]. Available from: URL:

(6.) Vess D. The French Revolution [cited 2003 Jul]. Available from: URL:
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Title Annotation:About The Cover
Author:Potter, Polyxeni
Publication:Emerging Infectious Diseases
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Previous Article:Drug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus surveillance.
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