Edouard Manet’s collection featuring the execution of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico in 1867 includes multiple oil paintings, a smaller oil sketch, and a lithograph. The controversial subject matter has led to the banning of the painting by the French government. The painting depicts Mexican soldiers shooting their first victim while General Mejía stands to witness but is now lost.
Manet intended to create an impactful scene that illustrates the climax of a known historical event. Maximilian was appointed as a puppet emperor in Mexico with hopes of establishing European-style monarchy enabled by Napoleon III and monarchists. However, this tragic event resulted in implicating the French government.
The painting exemplifies Manet’s Impressionist style and showcases his ability to bring focus on lesser-known parts of history with social commentary. It was deemed politically sensitive during his lifetime, leading to its display at several different museums like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Kunsthalle Mannheim Germany.
This piece by Manet presents both artistic worth as well as historical value for those interested in 19th-century Mexican politics’ tumultuous aspects.