Last year, in the space of just a couple of months, I came across a statue of a naked Napoleon twice. The first time it greeted me as I entered Brera Art Gallery's inner courtyard in Milan, the second as I was about to leave the ground floor of the 'Iron Duke' residence in London.
The colossal figure, made between 1802 and 1806 by artist Antonio Canova, depicts the French General as Mars the Peacemaker in an effort to make the subject universal, yet the business proved to be a tricky one for the Italian sculptor as, alas, the bronze copy - which is barely visible in the below photo I took in Milan - ended up having more success than the original marble.
The Empereur loathed the statue so much he banished it into storage, where it remained until in 1816 the British Government purchased and presented it to the Duke of Wellington in recognition of his victory over Napoleonic France at the Battle of Waterloo. The statue has remained in Apsley House in London ever since.
It appears that Napoleon didn't object to being represented like the Roman god of war, but complained of looking "trop athlétique". Is it possible that, in spite of his renowned arrogance, he knew he was not a Greek Adonis? As for the Duke of Wellington, the story goes that he didn’t mind his guests using it as an umbrella stand.