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Often there is a fine line between depicting the bravery of soldiers amidst horrible circumstances and actually glorifying war. Many of the works that have glorified war in the past were actually intended to glorify the achievements of some military hero or another in combat. This tradition stretched from ancient times, where we can see tomb paintings of Egyptian pharaohs slaughtering enemies to equestrian statues of Roman emperors and triumphal arches engraved with friezes depicting enemies being marched off in chains. One example of this theme in eighteenth century painting is Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon Crossing the Alps, which depicts the general on a rearing white steed, heroically crossing the Alps and pointing the way to victory. Engraved on a stone in the bottom left of the painting are the words "Bonaparte" and "Hannibal," connecting Napoleon with the legendary Carthaginian leader. An interesting juxtaposition to this painting is Paul Delaroche's 1848 painting Bonaparte Crossing the Alps, which does not glorify the act, but rather shows a tired-looking Napoleon and his men struggling to get through the snowy Alps.
One very famous work that depicts the inhumanity and atrocity of war is The Third of May, 1808 by Francisco Goya. It depicts the cold-blooded execution of a group of supposed Spanish rebels by Napoleon's troops in retribution for French deaths during an uprising in Madrid. One figure kneels with his arms outstretched amid the huddled group awaiting execution from a detatchment of soldiers, who have their muskets leveled at the men from about five feet away. Dead bodies of men already shot by the firing squad lay scattered around. It is perhaps the most famous, and maybe the most influential painting depicting the brutality of war ever executed, and it is part of a larger series of paintings depicting the uprising and the brutal French retaliation.
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