Napoleon at the Great St Bernard Pass

Thomas Charles NAUDET
French 1773-1810
The French army crossing Great St Bernard Pass (Passage du col de Saint-Bernard par l'armée française) Consular period 1799-1804
brush and ink, wash
35.5 x 50.6 cm
Fondation Napoléon, Paris
Acquisition 2008 (inv. 1172)
© Fondation Napoléon – Stéphane Pons

When you visit the Napoleon exhibition, look closely at the small black & white drawing by Naudet of Napoleon crossing the Alps at the Great St Bernard Pass, and amazingly you will find a French soldier giving a titbit to one of the famous Saint Bernard dogs!  The dogs that Napoleon saw when he crossed the Swiss Alps in 1800 are not the same breed that we recognize today. The original breed was established by 1707, but severe blizzards of 1813 and 1816 almost wiped out the breeding stock. To compensate, the priests of the St Bernard Hospice introduced Newfoundland dogs into the mix, which produced the current breed. Unfortunately the thicker, heavier build and coat of this dog made it unsuitable for traipsing through thick snow.

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