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From: "Roy C. Lackey" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Napoleon
Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2002 11:47:50 -0500

Dan'l wrote:

>You know, the whole business about "why Napoleon kept his hand in his
>according to _any_ biography, is a huge red herring ... he did not (as far
>as I can tell) habitually go about with his hand in his vest. There's this
>one portrait where he's posed that way; it happens to be the most famous of
>all his portraits. But if you tour, say, the Louvre, you'll see a number of
>other contemporary paintings, such as David's painting of Napoleon Crowning
>the Empress Josephine, in which his hands are in plain view.

That "most famous of all his portraits" is presumably the one he posed for
in 1810, also painted by Jacques Louis David, court painter to the Emperor
of the French. It shows him with his right hand in his white waistcoat at
about the level of his stomach. The mickey mouse set of encyclopedias I have
to hand (_World Book_, 1977) shows that painting, and another by Jean
Meissonier, of Napoleon on a white horse at the head of his army as it
retreated from Moscow. In this second painting he also has his right hand
situated the same way, only this time inside his greatcoat. It's been a long
time now, but I'm pretty sure I had heard of Napoleon's penchant for posing
that way, or at least of being portrayed that way, before I read PEACE, so
the notion had to have come from somewhere, even if it wasn't true. What was
the popular explanation? Weer's "innocent remark" to visitors' queries about
the hand "invariably offended". Sex, religion, and politics are the subjects
most likely to offend a wide variety of people.

>So ... what does this say about Den?

That he is an unreliable narrator? Or that Wolfe suffered from the same
popular misconception as a lot of other people.

Curiously, that same encyclopedia says: "Napoleon had an unimpressive
appearance, but he carried himself well. He stood slightly below average
height." Those are almost the same words Weer used to describe Smart:
"Beyond that there was nothing remarkable in his appearance: he was of just
under average height, . . .". (114)



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