Recently someone emailed me asking which copy of the Coronation by David was the original: the one in The Louvre or the one at Versailles. I was just going to immediately respond the one at the Louvre...but felt I should have a better understanding of why this was true.
The painting in the Louvre was the one Napoleon saw in person and was the one exhibited at the art salon the year it was completed. But there is indeed a copy. At the Versailles palace. If you ever go to Paris and spend a few days visiting these major sites, you'll have a strange feeling of de-ja-vue when you see the painting twice in a short period of time.
The painter completed the copy several years later and it was a paid commission.
Paid by whom you ask?
By Americans who have not been identified yet.
The great book "Staging Empire" has two short pages on this topic. I could use a whole book!!!
They mention that the second painting traveled to the USA for several showings and up until 1946 was in the hands of a private owner in the UK. Can you imagine? I did not know that. I can't seem to find out when the 2nd painting made it back to France. But to be sure, the current Versailles painting is the copy!
What is confusing is that the original was hung at Versailles but then returned to the Louvre where it now resides.