Long-lost Napoleon portrait resurfaces in New York

Long-lost Napoleon portrait resurfaces in New York

LONDON - A portrait of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, thought lost for two centuries, has turned up in New York, having been bought for less than a hundredth of its probable value.

The artwork, painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1813 when Britain and Prussia were threatening to occupy France, shows Napoleon I pledging to defend the country from invasion, wearing his national guard uniform to do so.

He is posing, as was his habit, with his right hand in his waistcoat.

Thought to be a copy, the painting was sold in 2005 to a New York private collector for around £15,000 (S$30,000).

The buyer had it cleaned then asked French art expert Simon Lee from the University of Reading, west of London, for his help in authenticating it.

He compared it to copies and other David paintings.

"Although the painting is signed with David's genuine signature, the cleaning revealed the word Rouget and the date 1813 appeared in the underpaint," Lee said.

Georges Rouget was David's preferred assistant for almost 10 years, and had a role in putting images on the canvas.

"Some collectors or museums might be put off by having two names on the canvas - but in many ways that is proof that it is an authentic product of David's working process."

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