Exterior of a military hospital, says The French in Italy

Exterior of a military hospital, says The French in Italy

To close

Title: Exterior of a military hospital, says The French in Italy.

Author : TAUNAY Nicolas Antoine (1755 - 1830)

Creation date : 1798

Date shown: 1797

Dimensions: Height 46 - Width 65.3

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzisite web

Picture reference: 76DE1315 / RF 1938-65

Exterior of a military hospital, says The French in Italy.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Eager to see the border of the Rhine recognized, France continued the war against Austria and England during the Directory while fighting the commercial monopoly exercised by the English in the Mediterranean. The march of the armies of Jourdan and Moreau on Vienne fails.
General Bonaparte, who already in 1794, during the time of the Convention, proposed to Barras to invade Italy, obtained from him, for his triumph of 13 Vendémiaire Year II, the command of the army of Italy. He beats the Piedmontese and the Austrians, and annex Savoy and Nice.
After the victories of Castiglione, Rivoli, Mantua, and the cession by Pius VI of the Comtat Venaissin, Avignon and the Northern States, Austria signed the Loeben armistice and the Treaty of Campoformio in 1797. Genoa, under the name of the Ligurian Republic, fell under the political influence of France.
The Italian campaign confirms Bonaparte's military genius and his ambitions. He wants to impose French influence in the Mediterranean.

Image Analysis

Taunay is known for his large formats and lyrical inspired battle scenes commissioned during the Empire. He did not follow the armies, but sketches made in Italy in 1784 may have served him well. It relates this historical episode in the life of Bonaparte's armies as a trivial scene in the Dutch taste, with a precise and luminous touch and a fine color based on gray.
The action takes place in an Italian square bustling with a bustling crowd. To the right, in the foreground, a group of soldiers bivouac on the grass, in the shade of a tree with thick dark green foliage which serves as a foil for the rest and fixes the scene. A sentry on duty, cocked hat on his head and bayonet in hand, and a man seated in profile on a tree root, smoking a pipe, stand out against the background of the white tent with pink and blue stripes. Another soldier, in a blue coat, pink, white and blue feather, goes to the left.
Behind, a harnessed wagon has just been unloaded of its wounded soldiers. One is carried away on a stretcher, the other lies among civilians and clerics in dismay. This side lacks movement compared to the rest. On the left, a loaded ambulance cart arrives in the courtyard, at the foot of the stairs leading to the building of a convent or a palace transformed into a military hospital. Men hug the wounded and lead them inside. Others come and go, doing various jobs. On the terrace, we fold, we spread and we take white sheets.
Groups mingle and bustle about without disorder. It is a set of over a hundred figures, well organized, rhythmic, airy, dynamic and cohesive. The attitudes and gestures are varied, sometimes precious like those of female figures. The architecture, arcades, ramps, stairs, volumes, in a tawny and transparent tone under the well-arranged light effects, underlines the rhythmic sequence of plans. Note, however, the lack of volume and the penchant for silhouettes as cut and applied after the fact. The figures stand out against a landscape of fanciful factories, recomposed according to classical tradition and updated by the figures in the foreground. It is faithful to the 18th century style, but it precedes the great neoclassical style.


This melancholy painting, of philosophical and moral intent, shows the philanthropic aid offered by humanity to the victorious warriors of an organized and protective army, concerned with hygiene and efficiency. What sets it apart from a simple genre scene. The horrors of the hidden war inspired citizen Lebrun, at the Museum's salon for the feast of the Republic (I Vendémiaire, year VII), the following verses:

“To more graceful objects
Taunai, consecrate your genius;
By these true but dreadful pictures
The ace. Our soul is too tender.
When the man is his own executioner
When he slaughters his fellows
The truth of your brush
Makes him even more guilty. ”

  • Italian countryside
  • Directory
  • hospitals
  • Italy


The Revolution and Europe 1789-1989 exhibition catalog, Grand Palais, Paris, March-June 1989, Paris, RMN, 1989.C. G. MARCUS “French landscape architects from neoclassicism to pre-romanticism” in Art and curiosity June – August 1967.From David to Delacroix. French painting from 1774 to 1830 Paris, Grand Palais, 1974-1975.Claudine LEBRUN-JOUVE Catalog raisonné Nicolas Antoine Taunay, 1755-1830 Paris, Arthéna, 2002.

To cite this article

Malika DORBANI-BOUABDELLAH, "Exterior of a military hospital, known as The French in Italy"

Video: Italy hospitals race to make room for patients