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Napoleon with hand-in-waistcoat.

The hand-in-waistcoat was a gesture commonly found in men's portraiture during the 18th and 19th centuries. Napoleon I of France was most well known for the gesture and is readily associated with this gesture because of the several portraits made by his artist, Jacques-Louis David. Theories state the gesture was done by Napoleon because of a stomach pain he had, but the pose was common in portraits from the mid-18th century. Along with this, many people state he had an itchy skin disease, or possible even breast cancer.[1]

The pose traces back to classical times — Aeschines, founder of a rhetoric school, suggested that speaking with an arm outside one's toga was bad manners.[2]


  1. ^ Meyer, Arline (March 1995). "Re-dressing classical statuary: The eighteenth-century `Hand-in-Waistcoat' portrait". Art Bulletin (College Art Association) 77 (1): 45–63. doi:10.2307/3046079. JSTOR 3046079. 
  2. ^ Holmberg, Tom. "Why is Napoleon depicted with his hand in his coat?". The Napoleon Series. Retrieved 2008-08-26.