In November 2023, the Palace of Versailles is dedicating a major retrospective to the painter Horace Vernet (1789 - 1863). Closely linked to the Versailles of Louis-Philippe, for over thirteen years the artist produced some of the most beautiful paintings in the historic Galleries. Today, Versailles houses the largest collection of his works. More than forty years after the last exhibition dedicated to Vernet, this retrospective of some 200 works provides an opportunity to discover many heretofore unexhibited masterpieces, accompanied by sketches and drawings demonstrating the artist’s methodology.


Born in 1789 in the Louvre, Horace Vernet is the grandson of Joseph Vernet, a seascape painter, and the son of Carle Vernet, an equestrian painter. A worthy heir to the family dynasty, not having obtained the Prix de Rome he won the favour of Napoleon I and his family very early on.

First evolving within the Romantic art circle of the 1820s alongside his friend Théodore Géricault, Vernet developed an easy and seductive style before discovering lithography. He became the favourite painter of the Duke of Orléans, the future Louis-Philippe.

Additionally, Vernet rapidly gained a degree of celebrity, which led him to pose for several colleagues. The exhibition will present some of these portraits by his contemporaries.

At the Salon of 1822, Horace Vernet saw his paintings refused. He then organised a personal exhibition in his studio, the immense success of which definitively established his reputation. It was the start of a long official career. This exhibition will endeavour to show the stylistic evolution of Horace Vernet’s works, moving from the Romantic passion he shares with Géricault to more measured scenes of battles.

From italy to the east

The exhibition will highlight the importance of Horace Vernet’s travels, particularly in Italy and Algeria. Appointed director of the French Academy in Rome in 1829, Horace Vernet discovered the great classical Italian models and tried his hand at history painting.

In 1833, he discovered Algeria and concentrated on Orientalist painting, alternating civil, religious and military subjects. Two years later, he was commissioned to depict the military conquests of Louis-Philippe’s heirs in the Africa rooms of the Palace of Versailles. This period of major orders was punctuated by numerous trips to the East and to Russia. Under the Second Empire, his career was hailed with a retrospective of his work at the Exhibition Universelle of 1855. He died in 1863 after having received the medal of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour.

an utter artist

A prolific painter, both acclaimed and derided by critics, Horace Vernet did not leave his contemporaries indifferent. This retrospective will underscore the painter’s ease of style and the richness of his preferred subjects. It will reveal his love for horses and hunting, his attachment to the Napoleonic epic and feats of arms, his taste for Romantic literature, Lord Byron or even the staging of his family origins.

A talented painter, Horace Vernet distinguished himself in all genres, especially portraiture. The exhibition will showcase many of his paintings kept in private collections.

Retracing the entire career of the painter, this retrospective will dive into the 19th century of Horace Vernet. On this occasion, the canvases of the Africa Rooms will be visible.


Valérie Bajou, General Curator at the National Museum of the Palaces of Versailles and Trianon 

Antoine Fontaine

Communiqué de presse


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Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, 1212 (detail), Horace Vernet, 1817

© RMN-GP (Palace of Versailles) © G. Blot

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Portrait of Horace Vernet, Ary Scheffer, 1817, Palace of Versailles

© RMN-GP (Palace of Versailles) © F. Raux

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