Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker is a huge, heroic nude statue cast in bronze that stands 3.45 meters tall located in the courtyard of Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan. Italy. Aware of the power of images, the French Emperor Napoleon wished to have himself portrayed in a colossal statue and it depicts his head on the body of the Roman god of war, Mars.
In the statue, Napoleon is holding a Victory or gilded Nike standing on a spherical object in his right-hand side. In his left-hand, he’s holding a staff. At his side a belt and a sword are hung over a tree stump. Mars is portrayed as having brought peace; and has put his armor and weapons aside.
While it was not truly appreciated by the people in France, its classical style and perfect features were seen by many as a classical work of art, and Charles-Jean-Marie Alquier, the French ambassador to Rome at the time commissioned a replica as a gift to Eugene de Beauharnais the Viceroy of Italy.
The replica was created by Francesco Righetti and his son Luigi in Rome by taking a cast from the original sculpture. It was sent to Milan in May 1812, but the city found it difficult to find a suitable location for it due to its controversial nature. It was finally moved to the main courtyard of the Palazzo di Brera, now known as the Pinacoteca di Brera, and was inaugurated there on 14 August 1859 during Napoleon III’s visit and has stood in the courtyard ever since.
The Original Statue
The original sculpture was made of marble and was created between 1802 and 1806 by Antonio Canova, the most important sculptor of his day. Napoleon saw it for the first time shortly before it was unveiled in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
In 1816, the British government purchased it from Louis XVIII and granted it to the 1st Duke of Wellington. The duke placed the statue in the center of his house where the floor had to be strengthened to carry its weight, and it is currently on display in the stairwell at Apsley House, the Duke’s London residence.