Whenever people talk about the arts, the subject of child-prodigies very often comes up. More often than not they tend to be most abundant in music and dance. Music, because it's apparently a gift that develops early in childhood, and dance because only YOUNG bodies can withstand the rigors of the excruciating training that's often involved. In painting, prodigies are more often in their teens and inasmuch as painting isn't exactly a performing art, they are usually less renown. Turner was a prodigy, so was Picasso, Michelangelo, and a few others we've already discussed. Sometimes though, these prodigies start early and then don't quite fulfill the glorious expectations of their masters. One such example of this was Antoine-Jean Gros.
Gros (pronounced Grows) was born in 1771. At the prepubescent age of 12 he was a student in the studio of the classical painter, Jaques-Louis David (Pronounce DA-veed). It's said the young boy was one of the master's favorites. Eventually, he grew to compete with his instructor for commissions from the Emperor Napoleon. By the time he was 25 he was traveling with Napoleon and his armies as an art appraisers of work to be confiscated from conquered lands and sent back home to Paris. It was a practice David hated and denounced. The master and his protege' seldom spoke to one another thereafter. Quite a number of paintings in the Louvre, however, came as a result of this practice and the keen eye of Gros.
In 1804, Gros painted Napoleon in the Plague House at Jaffa. Gros had embraced Romanticism and this painting is redundant in it. It pictures Napoleon standing, Christ-like in the center, reaching out, touching his soldiers ill with a contagious diseases. The gesture seems courageous and may be based on the medieval belief that monarchs could cure diseases such as consumption and various bone maladies. There is an overall reddish, golden glow to the painting set amidst Moorish arches, the dead, and dying. In spite of the heroic nature of Gros' work, the truth of the matter is something else. When they became a burden to his campaign, Napoleon ordered the desperately ill soldiers of his own army, poisoned.