The Bowes Museum > Exhibitions > 2014 > Manet – The Execution of Maximilian

Manet – The Execution of Maximilian

22 March - 18 May 2014

A much loved work from the National Gallery Collection - Edouard Manet’s The Execution of Maximilian came to The Bowes Museum as the first painting in the three-year Masterpiece Tour; part of the National Gallery’s commitment to promote the understanding, knowledge and appreciation of Old Master paintings to as wide an audience as possible, with this opportunity receiving support from Christie’s. 

The painting – the first to travel on the tour - depicts the fatal moment when Ferdinand Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, was captured by Benito Juárez’s Mexican forces and executed alongside two of his generals – Mejía and Miramón – in 1867. 

The left hand section was most likely cut off by Manet himself, but after his death the canvas was cut into smaller fragments, some of which were sold separately. The artist Edgar Degas, appreciating the great importance of the work eventually purchased all of the surviving fragments and reassembled them on a single canvas, which has been part of the National Gallery Collection since 1918. 

It was displayed alongside Jules de Vignon’s Portrait of Emperor Napoleon III after Winterhalter, dated 1867, The Emperor Napoleon III Reviewing Troops on the Champs Elysées, Paris by H. J. C and clothes that belonged to the Empress Eugenie. 


Portrait of Emperor Napoleon III after Winterhalter, 1867

Together with contemporary magazines and journals, these works introduced you to the Second Empire and the political developments which preceded Maximilian’s execution. 


The masterpiece was also displayed with reproductions of Manet’s lithographs, L’Exécution de Maximilien and La Barricade, scène de la Commune de Paris, and reproductions of other versions of The Execution of Maximilian which enabled the Museum to explore the development of the picture and the highly charged imagery of the firing squad clothed in military uniform.

Coincidentally, the Archduke was also a client of Henry Poole & Co.

Related Events

Gallery Talk
25 March, 29 April & 6 May, 2.30, Free with Admission
Join the Museum’s Keeper of Paintings, Emma House, to learn more about the painting The Execution of Maximilian by Manet, on loan from the National Gallery as part of its Masterpiece tour, aimed at promoting the understanding, knowledge and appreciation of Old Master paintings
to as wide an audience as possible.

Manet’s Modernism & The Execution of Maxmilian
4 April, 2.30, Free with Admission
Arnika Schmidt from the National Gallery will give an insight into the French master’s life and art, exploring the genesis of The Execution of Maximilian. Must be booked in advance by calling 01833 690606.

Marvellous Manet: Children’s Activities
7 & 8 April, 10.30 - 3.00, Free with Admission
Look at a Manet painting on display in the Museum before participating in fun Manet inspired craft activities. Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies.

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.