Military Event from Napoleon's First Spanish Campaign (Primary Title)

Jean-Claude Bonnefond, French, 1796 - 1860 (Artist)

oil on canvas
Unframed: 25 5/8 × 21 1/4 in. (65.09 × 53.98 cm)
Framed: 33 1/2 × 29 1/4 in. (85.09 × 74.3 cm)
The violence of Napoleon’s military intervention in Spain (1808-14) spurred both French and Spanish artists alike to produce images that reflected the chaos and tumult of the period. In his Disaster of War series, Spain’s Francisco Goya painted the most famous as well as the most overtly gruesome images of the atrocities of the Napoleonic Spanish campaign. Jean-Claude Bonnefond’s Military Event from Napoleon’s Spanish Campaign, in contrast with Goya’s graphic depictions, is an eerily quiet scene of murderous intrigue. Here Bonnefond demonstrates a technical mastery of the medium. The precise quality of Bonnefond’s style is associated with the Lyonnais school, which was known for the very high degree of finish in his paintings. In this work, tiny brushstrokes give the painting its smooth surface quality and highly developed realist details, such as the French soldiers’ bayonets and Napoleonic uniforms. At a well in the courtyard of a monastery, two soldiers have just discovered a comrade’s epaulet and shako, or hat, and traces of a bloody struggle. A monk furtively retreats in the background. Although not a specific incident in the Peninsular War, this scene does directly allude to the tensions that flared between Napoleon and the Catholic Church in Spain for reasons that included Napoleon’s abolition of the Inquisition.
Signed and dated lower left: Bonnefond. Lyon. 1823.
Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund, by exchange
Paris, Musée Royal des Arts, Salon de 1824, n° 202, "Scène militaire, première campagne d'Espagne".
Trippi, Peter. "The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Takes a Fresh Look at 19th-Century Europe." Fine Art Connoisseur, vol. 8 issue 5 (October, 2011): pp. 33-37. Color ill. pp. 34.

P. Sanchez X. Seydoux, Les catalogues des Salons, II, Paris, Salon de 1824, p.83, n° 202.

Jean-Baptiste Dumas, Histoire de l'Académie Royale des Sciences, Belles- lettres et Arts, Lyon, 1839, p. 114.

Martin-Daussigny, "Éloge de Bonnefond", Revue du lyonnais, 1861, XXII, p. 190.

Fatalot, Iconographie lyonnaise, Lyon, 1861 (cited by N. Colin-Raimondo, without indicating the page).

E. Bellier de La Chavignerie, Dictionnaire général des artistes de l'école française, Paris, 1882, I, p. 118.

N. Colin-Raimondo, Vie et œuvre de Jean Claude Bonnefond, peintre lyonnais (1796-1860), masters thesis, Université Lyon II, 1978, I, p. 149 (unpublished).
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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