Faces, preceded by official portraits
"I saw a stout man with a waxen complexion driving off in a carriage drawn by four galloping horses; I was told he was Napoleon." This sentence, whose author I have forgotten, illustrates quite well the course of naïve understanding. What we first notice is the man with his bilious face. He appears amidst other men, dignitaries and field marshals; and when his real name is revealed to us, he has already disappeared, carried off by his four horses. "I was told he was Napoleon; apparently he was." That I did indeed see the Emperor will always remain probable. But I know for certain that I saw the man and his wan, sallow flesh. And even to Bonaparte himself, his supreme position of First Consul or Emperor was likewise only probable. He was not Napoleon at all but only someone who, by a great effort of his imagination, thought he was Napoleon. It is a hard task for a lofty personage to have to affirm constantly for us his importance and his authority when he sees reflected in mirrors his only too human mediocrity and discovers within himself only melancholy and confused moods. That is why official portraits are needed; they relieve the prince of the burden of imagining his divine right.
Sartre, J.-P. (1966)., Faces, preceded by official portraits, in M. Natanson (ed.), Essays in phenomenology, Den Haag, Nijhoff, pp. 157-163.
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