Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Two Napoleons in Brooklyn, One in Timberlands

By Jason Farago
Kehinde Wiley’s ‘‘Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps’’ (2005), left, and Jacques-Louis David’s ‘‘Bonaparte Crossing the Alps’’ (1801) shown in a composite photo of the exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Photographs by Emily Andrews for The New York Times
A French masterpiece has come to New York for the first time ever, and has been greeted with a curious silence. It’s Jacques-Louis David’s “Bonaparte Crossing the Alps,” from 1801, and you know it even if you’ve never seen it in person, so enduring is its propaganda. Until May, you’ll find it in a little-trafficked gallery on the fourth floor of the Brooklyn Museum — and it is not alone. In a face-off between two visions of the political power of art, the museum has hung another equestrian portrait: “Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps,” by Kehinde Wiley, which pictures a young black man in the same pose, the bicorne replaced by a bandanna, the riding boots swapped for Timberlands. The two Napoleons appear alongside a few engravings, cartoons and imperial medals from the museum’s collection, in the exhibition “Jacques-Louis David Meets Kehinde Wiley,” which was first presented at the Malmaison last year. [More]