This much-loved work from the National Gallery collection goes on display at The Bowes Museum as the first painting in the three-year Masterpiece Tour.
This work depicts the fatal moment when Ferdinand Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, was captured by Benito Juárez’s Mexican forces and executed alongside two of his generals – Mejía and Miramón – in 1867.
The painting itself has an interesting story; first the left hand section was cut off - most likely by Edouard Manet himself - and then after his death the work was cut into even smaller fragments, some of which were sold separately. Edgar Degas, appreciating the great importance of the painting, eventually purchased all of the surviving pieces and reassembled them onto a single canvas, which has been part of the National Gallery Collection since 1918.
Here it is displayed alongside two other important works - Jules de Vignon's Portrait of Emperor Napoleon III after Winterhalter and The Emperor Napoleon III Reviewing Troops on the Champs Elysées, Paris by H. J. C - as well as a furnishing brocade with the insignia of Napoleon III , clothes that belonged to the Empress Eugenie and contemporary magazines and journals. These provide insight into the political developments that preceded Maximilian's execution.
Also on display are reproductions of Manet's lithographs, L’Exécution de Maximilien and La Barricade, scène de la Commune de Paris, and reproductions of other versions of The Execution of Maximilian which are used to explore the development of the picture and its associated imagery.