OPTICC 4th Six Weeks

Introduction: Napoleon Bonaparte, pictured in the painting holding the crown, played a large part in this period of history. He became the first emperor of France after the French Revolution, and his decisions impacted France both positively and negatively. For example, he made decisions involving individual rights–in fact, he made a book of rules called “The Napoleonic Code” that declared equality between most people, with the exception of women. This code positively impacted everyone except women. Napoleon also had many military victories which impacted other parts of the world. In France, he is known as the “Great Reformer” because of how he shaped France the way it is today. It is important for people today to see this piece because it represents a turning point in France’s and the world’s history. If Napoleon had not become emperor, France’s government might be completely different and the world might view France in a different light.

Overview: The painting is incredibly large–20’4” by 32’1”. It has a lot of dark space at the top, mostly curtains, walls, and a few onlookers in the shadows. Towards the bottom, the painting is brighter and many people dressed in robes are standing. A woman is kneeling while a man holds a crown above her. Another man is sitting in a throne behind the man with the crown. No audience member facial expressions are particularly happy; they seem to be upset. There is a cross on the right side of the painting as well as a statue.

Parts: The facial expressions of the audience set the mood for what is going on. Most of them are giving either angry or disapproving looks towards Napoleon. The way Napoleon is standing and holding the crown while facing the crowd suggests his power. The woman, Joséphine, kneeling before him also implies that Napoleon now has a lot of power. The amount of religious paraphernalia and people in the room presents the idea that this was a religious ceremony, though it is understood that it was more of an inauguration. This hints at the idea that the church and the governments were still very involved with each other at the time. The colors used are royal velvet reds, whites, and golds, demonstrating a royal scene.

Title: The title of this painting is The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine. This shows that this scene wasn’t just the coronation of Napoleon, but his wife as well. The kneeling woman dressed in elaborate robes must be Joséphine, his wife at the time. It is known that Napoleon didn’t believe in many rights for women, so though his wife was being coronated with him, she probably didn’t gain even close to as much power as him even though she was receiving a similar title.

Interpretation: The intent of this painting was to show the scene of Napoleon and Joséphine’s coronation. Napoleon shocked everyone at his coronation when the Pope was about to crown him. He turned around, grabbed the crown, and placed it on his head. This caused the angry and disapproving facial expressions from the audience members. After he crowned himself, he crowned Joséphine as well. The Pope had been there to place the crowns on their heads, but he was not of use when Napoleon took his job. The message received is power. Napoleon seems very powerful when he crowns himself–as if he’s saying he’s more powerful than the Pope!

Context: At this time in history, France had just finished their revolution. Napoleon was there to pick up the pieces of the revolutionized country and put them back together again to give the people what they wanted as well as what he wanted. The revolution was over high taxes and new Enlightenment ideas. The people wanted change and that is what the revolution and Napoleon brought. They went from having a feudal system, a decrease in the power of the Catholic church, and social class inequality to the exact opposite. Though there were a few similarities before and after the revolution, for example, there was still no freedom of the press, there were mostly changes to the French society.

Conclusion: This painting represents the radical power move Napoleon committed while being crowned emperor of France. The facial expressions, the position the Pope is seated in, and the artist’s rendering of the moment all tie into the power Napoleon so obviously holds after coronating himself. In class, we are learning about the different revolutions, including the French revolution, and Napoleon plays a major role throughout and after the war is over. This painting shows his character and who France was being led by during their time of piecing back together.

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Malinalli, the Victim

Malinalli, a slave to Hernán Cortés, grew up in a Nahuatl village in the 1500s, though she was sold off to slavery at a young age. Throughout her life, she made some decisions that make people today call her “Malinche” with bitterness in their voices. Why? Malinalli is thought of as a traitor to her country due to choices she made, but we have to look past those choices. Malinalli is a victim and that fact is shown through her decisions about who she loves, her power, and her death

Malinalli was very young when she was sold as a slave. FullSizeRender-1.jpgShe witnessed her own mother give her up to someone else because her mother didn’t want anything to do with her. Though she had her grandmother to guide her in the early stages of her life, Malinalli didn’t experience the love and care she needed to live a normal life with normal relationships. When Cortés noticed Malinalli and seemed to fall in love with her, she didn’t know better than to think she was in love with him too since she hadn’t had a male role model in her life. Her grandfather was not around in her life, her father died when she was young, and her mother never held a healthy relationship to show Malinalli exactly what a healthy relationship looked like. Because of this, she described Cortés like a god, though she knew he was a terrible person. “She liked watching Cortés’s body, his build, his strength, his courage, his audacity, his gift as a leader.” (pg. 112) Stockholm syndrome also has to be taken into account when reviewing Malinalli’s decisions and relationships. Stockholm syndrome happens when a person who has been taken captive begins to think they are in love with their captor. They begin to trust their captor and view them as heroic, rather than an awful person who has captured them. She viewed Cortés as a wonderful person even after he committed genocide before her eyes. Malinalli morally understood that mass murder was a horrid concept, and yet she still supported Cortés, which shows there was something happening to her idea of a healthy relationship.

FullSizeRender.jpgAs a translator, Malinalli was put in the situation of choosing between her native civilization’s existence or her freedom. She ended up choosing her freedom. Even so, none of us have been put in that situation so we can’t completely understand what she felt like. All of her choices can be related back to her childhood; she was never set a good example and was never given any role models other than the gods she worshiped and her grandmother. Malinalli didn’t know what she was getting herself into, which was evident from when she was hiding in the corner throughout the first mass murder Cortés committed. “For over two hours, the Spaniards stabbed, beat, and murdered all the Indians who were gathered there. Malinalli ran to the corner to hide and with eyes filled with horror watched Cortés and his soldiers sever arms, ears, and heads.” (pg. 94) It is obvious in this quote that Malinalli didn’t understand anyone could be so hateful and inhumane. But even though she felt so horribly here, later on in her life she still viewed Cortés as a capable human being.

FullSizeRender-2.jpgMalinalli’s death may seem selfish, but in reality, it shows that not everything in her life was fine, though on the outside it seemed to be. She had a nice husband and two kids. No one was after her; her life seemed to be pretty great at the time, but then she drowned herself. She felt a spiritual pull that it was her time to go. “Malinalli, like Quetzalcóatl before her, on facing her dark side, became aware of the light. Her will was to be one with the cosmos, and she forced the limits of her body to disappear.” (pg. 185) This quote proves that Malinalli saw the dark side of herself. She knew she could’ve made better decisions throughout her life. We may never know, but she probably felt that if she kept following the path she was on, she would continue to the dark side. She felt that she may never cross to the light so Malinalli took the only chance she had and died.

Overall, Malinalli shows all signs of being a victim. Her actions and decisions may come across as selfish, and yet they all relate back to how she grew up. A stressful childhood can affect the way one acts when they get older, the kinds of relationships one makes, and the types of decisions one decides on. The only way we can better understand Malinalli is not to hate her, but to try to put ourselves in her shoes, look at her whole story, and at what she might’ve experienced.