The Execution of Emperor Maximilian in 1867-1869 by Edouard Manet (Realism)
In 1861, allied troops from France, Spain, and Britain invaded Mexico to recoup debts owed to them by the Mexican government. French occupation of the country followed, and in 1863, Napoleon III of France offered to make Austrian Archduke Maximilian emperor of the territory. But then, things got out of control, a civil war erupted, and the French left behind Maximilian, whom the Mexicans executed in 1867 with two of his generals. The bumbling misadventure infuriated the proud French, among them the staunch republican Édouard Manet, who loathed the autocratic Napoleon III. ☝🏻☝🏻️☝🏻Between 1867 and 1869, Manet painted several versions of the execution and the picture above is the third version.
In the previous versions, the soldiers wear clothes and sombrero of Mexican Republicans. But in this final version, they are dressed in such manner that they can easily be mistaken for French soldiers…
Also, the sergeant wearing a red cap clearly resembles Napoleon III.
HENCE THE REAL ASSASSIN BECOMES THE FRENCH and the Mexican people is solely represented as spectators in the background peeping over the wall.
The composition of the painting is a direct echo of Francisco Goya’s famous Third of May, 1808 in which the massacre of Spanish citizens by French troops is depicted. While Goya’s image includes absolute heroes and villains, the tone of Manet’s work remains coolly ambiguous. Whereas Goya made use of hot, screaming outrage, the paradoxical Manet, who had about him much of the reserved dandy, was not a shouter. He had one of the most elusive, and exquisitely subtle, sensibilities in 19th century art at once warm and cool, detached and sensual, sweet and brutal. Compared to his 2 first versions of the scene, the image here clarifies, becomes sharper in form and cooler in feeling. He seems to strip down history painting, removing its many filters and veneers, much as he had stripped the conventions of “the nude” in Olympia to reveal a naked woman.