“Karl has a wife and a child—if you consign him to death, you kill three persons at once;—if you give me up to the executioner, my fate will redound so terribly on no one!”
His rage knew no bounds. He muttered threats of deadly vengeance; and on the following morning, he commanded the prisoners to be brought into his presence. Then commenced a terrible massacre, the horrors of which no human pen nor tongue can narrate.
The social anarchy resulting from plague are obviously a mainstay of pop culture depictions; times of crisis often bring out the worst in humanity. Yet they can also bring out the best in humanity as well, and it is one human, at his best and most heroic, whom Antoine-Jean Gros decided to represent on canvas in 1804. The man was Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French.