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Mac-Mahon, Duke of Magenta.
© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot
Publication date: March 2016
Marshal and Duke of the Empire
Born into a family of Irish origin, Mac-Mahon left Saint-Cyr in 1827 before acquiring a brilliant reputation as a military leader during the conquest of Algeria. Commander of the second army corps, he won over the Austrian army, in Lombardy, on June 4, 1859, the victory of Magenta, which earned him the honor of being raised by Napoleon III to the dignity of Marshal and Duke of the Empire. on the battlefield.
One of the last works of Horace Vernet
This large portrait is one of the last paintings of this scale painted by Horace Vernet, one of the foremost artists of the time and recognized specialist in historical painting and battle painting. Used to official commissions, he was one of the main artists commissioned by Louis-Philippe for the Musée de Versailles, notably for the Galerie des Batailles and the rooms of Algeria. As early as 1824-1826, the young painter had received an order for portraits of marshals for the Tuileries, developing, in his portraits of Gouvion Saint-Cyr and Molitor (Versailles, National Museum of the Castle), a formula of full-length figure " in situation ”which he often repeated thereafter. This is the case here, where he combines portraiture and military painting: on the battlefield of Magenta, Mac-Mahon crosses a palisade, among the corpses and at the head of his soldiers, on the right. The bottom of the canvas is occupied by the battle itself. Mac-Mahon looks to the left, the telescope in his right hand and the cap in his left hand, in a simple movement and a pose that is deliberately lively and spontaneous.
Mac-Mahon for many embodies the ambiguities of the IIIe Emerging Republic. Although succeeding Thiers in 1873 as President of the Republic, he actually strove to prepare the conditions for a monarchist restoration. The division between Orleanists and Legitimists finally got the better of this project. Her resignation in 1879 symbolized the final victory of the Republican camp, after the majority she managed to retain in the elections of 1877 and that she won in the Senate in 1879.
The caption of the portrait should not, however, mislead: it was the victorious soldier, the Marshal of the Empire that Vernet represented, and not the politician whose fate was still veiled when the painting was painted.
- Second Empire
- Mac Mahon (Patrice de)
- Thiers (Adolphe)
- Louis Philippe
Jean-Paul BERTAUD and William SERMAN New military history of France, 1789-1919 Paris, Fayard, 1998 Gabriel de BROGLIE Mac Mahon Paris, Perrin, 2000 Jean TULARD (dir.) Dictionary of the Second Empire Paris, Fayard, 1995.Horace Vernet, 1789-1863 catalog of the exhibition, Paris, Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, March-July 1980.
To cite this article
Barthélemy JOBERT and Pascal TORRÈS, "Mac Mahon, Marshal and Duke of the Empire"