Execution of the Emperor Maximilian (1867) by Edouard Manet

Execution of the Emperor Maximilian - Edouard Manet - 1868

Artwork Information

TitleExecution of the Emperor Maximilian
ArtistEdouard Manet
Dimensions33.5 x 43.5 cm
Art MovementRealism
Current LocationClark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, US
Location Created Paris, France

About Execution of the Emperor Maximilian

The artwork titled “Execution of the Emperor Maximilian” is a compelling history painting by Édouard Manet, dated 1868. This lithograph, exemplifying the Realism art movement, measures 33.5 by 43.5 centimeters. It was created in Paris, France, and is currently housed at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA.

The artwork depicts the tragic moment of the execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, orchestrated by a firing squad. The central figure, presumably Maximilian, stands with two others before a stone wall, adopting a dignified stance, despite being moments away from death. They are flanked by a line of soldiers, dressed in dark blue uniforms with pronounced white belts, who aim their rifles at point-blank range. As the rifles discharge, smoke obscures the lower part of the condemned men’s bodies, enhancing the immediacy and brutality of the scene. To the left, a man in civilian clothing holds the emperor’s hand, offering a poignant gesture of solidarity.

In the background, onlookers, some of whom clamber onto a wall for a better view, witness the tragic event. The stark contrast between the stillness of the victims and the action of the executioners, as well as the neutral expressions on the soldiers’ faces, starkly emphasize the chilling nature of the execution. Manet’s use of color and composition captures the somber mood, reflecting on the themes of martyrdom, injustice, and the harsh reality of political turmoils of the era. This work stands as a testament to Manet’s critique of the political events of his time and his groundbreaking approach to painting historical subjects with contemporary significance.

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