Ingres painted this portrait two years before Napoleon I was on His Imperial Throne. After Bonaparte and his wife, Josephine de Beauharnais, toured the northern departments of France in 1803, it was decided that portraits of the First Consul should be sent to five towns in the region to remind citizens of their loyalty to the new regime. Five artists-the young Ingres, Marie-Guilhemine Benoist, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Robert Lefèvre, and Charles Meynier-ultimately received commissions from the minister of the interior to paint full-length portraits of Bonaparte. Ingres's painting, destined for Liège, in present-day Belgium, shows the First Consul pointing to an August 1803 decree that designated 300,000 francs for the reconstruction of that city, which had been partially destroyed by Austrian troops nine years earlier. As with the imperial portrait, it is unlikely that Bonaparte posed for Ingres.
Bonaparte as First Consul
Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne