Shortly after the death of General Bertrand, in 1844, a committe was formed in Châteauroux under the leadership of the mayor, Eugène Grillon, to raise a commemorative statue. A "general subscription" was set up, soon transformed into a "national subscription" to raise funds for the statue. The Prince de Joinville, the third son of Louis-Philippe, who had accompanied the remains of Napoleon from Saint Helena to France in 1840, accepted the role of "first subscriber", donating 150 francs to the fund. The Paris branch of the committee secured the adherence of several surviving dignitaries of the First Empire, including Lieut.-Gen. Baron Pelet, the Count de las Cases, Baron Gourgaud, the Count de Excelmans and the Count de Bondy. The Châteauroux committee included the first magistrate of the town, the Prefect of the Indre, the President of the Tribunal, some members of the Municipal Council, retired Deputies, de Vasson, Royal Procurator and the banker, Trumeau. Within a very brief space of time, through advertising in the papers and a poster campaign, the necessary funds had been raised and the inauguration was announced for the 1 May 1846. Already, on 23 March 1844, the mayor announced that 25,000 francs had been donated, a very considerable sum for the time, attributable perhaps to the conservative tendency of this largely rural area. The historian, Bertrand Tillier has analysed the make-up of the fund, much of it consisting of very small contributions from people of modest income. A very large contribution of 6,000 francs came from the Ministry of the Interior. Apart from obvious motives of political conformity, the emotional attachment of very large numbers of people to this "hero of the exile, this pious courtier of distress", a vastly significant figure in the "Napoleonic legend", must account for the phenomenal success of this subscription.
The committee seems to have wished to act with speed. No competition was held to choose the artist.The sculptor Antoine Desboeufs wrote directly to Mayor Grillon proposing his services, but, probably following the advice of highly placed persons on the Parisian committee, it was decided to commission Marochetti to create the statue. Perhaps a deciding factor behind this choice was the sculptor's having been commissioned in 1842 to create an equestrian statue of the Emperor for the Courtyard of the Invalides, following his failure to secure the commission for Napoleon's tomb.
In a letter of 26 Feb. 1846, the Mayor of Châteauroux announced to the Minister of the Interior that Marochetti's statue was nearly finished, and reported that Marochetti, having received already 6,000 francs was now asking for a further 10,000. In 1844 he had spoken only of 4,000 francs, and these demands may have been behind the tensions which subsequently built up between the artist and the committee.
The statue was cast in 1846 by the Parisian foundry of Eck and Durand. The bill for the work is conserved in the Châteauroux Archives. However, Marochetti's statue was then rejected by both the Bertrand Committee and by the town of Châteauroux. Extant documents provide no explanation of why this occured, and certainly nothing to confirm a local tradition, according to which Marochetti was found to have made the general's breeches too tight and his genitalia too prominent. That Marochetti's likeness is convincing may be judged from a comparison with a painting of Bertrand from life, executed by Paul Delaroche.
Marochetti had designed his statue according to the terms of the contract signed by both parties. Bertrand was to be represented "bringing back from Saint Helena the testament of the Emperor". The statue shows the general wearing his imperial costume, decorated with the Legion of Honour, his left hand on his sword hilt, his right holding a bunch of papers resting on a standing stone inscribed with the dates of Napoleon's exile, 1815-1821.
Marochetti threatened the committee with court action if it continued to decline to take the statue, but, after several years of sterile discussion, Bertrand-Boislarge, brother of the general, decided to acquire the work and placed it in the park of the Château de Touvent. Latterly it has been removed from the Château and erected in front of the Musée Bertrand in the town.
During the shortlived Second Republic of 1848, the town of Châteauroux went to another sculptor, François Rude, for a second statue.Rude's statue, completed after the establishment of the Second Empire, was accepted and erected on the Place Sainte-Hélène in Châteauroux, where it was inaugurated on 2nd July 1854.
Bertrand Tillier, "Le Général Bertrand statufié à Châteauroux
(1844-1854)", Bulletin de la A.S.P.H.A.R:ES.D (Bulletin de l'Association
pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine historique et archéologique de la region [Berry?])
1994 (consulted in the Archives Municipales, Châteauroux)