The Clark Art Museum once hosted an exhibition of the works of the great French artist Jacques Louis David, whose magnificent scenes chronicled the French revolution and the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. David was a close friend of Napoleon’s as well as his official painter. Napoleon was not at all a modest man. He once declared, “Power is my mistress,” and looking at his life, we know that he meant it. A brigadier general at twenty four, Napoleon’s vision of himself was matched fully by his ambitious successes. Since it’s in the best interests of a court painter to flatter the rulers that he paints, David spared no effort to portray Napoleon, a man of no small ego and accomplishment, as smarter, braver, taller, and stronger than everyone around him. My favorite example of David’s flattery is his painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps to defeat the Austrians. Napoleon is dressed regally, exuding confidence, courage and power. As his troops move forward in the background, he takes a moment from battle to look imperiously at the artist and at us. To lend even greater mightiness and grandeur to Napoleon’s image, David painted him on a sleek, muscular, white battle horse, an awesome example of natural beauty and power.