Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Napoleon And Paris

Napoleon & Paris examined the role of the military officer turned emperor and his influence on Paris down through time. The Canadian Museum of History presented the exhibit in collaboration with the Musee Carnavalet and Paris Musees, with artifacts, art, sketches, models, and reproductions from the Carnavalet, the Louvre, and other collections on display. You can see a video on the exhibition here. Fortunately photography was allowed, though not flash photography, so items like a uniform or his hat that had caught my eye didn't really photograph well. The exhibit shows the visitor both the timeline of Napoleon's life, and the various ways his rule and presence influenced the development of the city and France as a whole. What may be a surprise to the visitor is that Napoleon spent less time in Paris during his rule than he did picking fights with half the world. 

The first thing the visitor was greeted with was this formal portrait of Napoleon, an oil painting by Robert Lefevre, with his throne beside him. Bonaparte is wearing his favourite uniform, from his days as a colonel.

The walls of the exhibition as I passed through tended to have large scale reproductions of paintings etched onto the surface- this allowed you to get right up close to them. Such was the case with a detailed section of The Imperial Guard Entering Paris Through The Pantin Gate, November 25th, 1807, situated close to the introductory overview of Napoleon's tumultuous life. The original work was done by Nicolas-Antoine Taunay at some point between 1808-1810.

A bust of a young Napoleon, done in 1798 by sculptor Charles-Louis Corbet, captures the general at the time of his Italian campaign. It has a portrait, Josephine de Beauharnais, as its neighbour. Napoleon married the young widow in 1796. The oil painting was done in 1799 by Andrea Appiani.

This portrait, Lucien Bonaparte, is an oil painting by Francois-Xavier Fabre, circa 1800, depicting the younger brother of the Emperor.

This is another one of the large scale reproductions- The Consecration Of Emperor Napoleon And The Coronation Of Empress Josephine On December 2, 1804. The original work is by Jacques-Louis David, done in 1807. It is interesting to be able to get up so close to examine the details of a very familiar work, something I imagine can't be done with the original.

An oil painting, View Of The Grand Theatre Erected In Place de la Concorde for the Peace Celebrations, 18 Brumaire, Year X, is found here. It is by the artist Jean-Baptiste Cazin, painted in 1801. That particular date reflects a short lived Revolutionary calendar concept. The date itself was November 9th, marking peace with Austria- which would come to an end just a few years later. 

This pairing caught my eye. The first is a notice for information on those conspiring against Napoleon. The second is an 1804 coloured etching, Pichegru Being Arrested, featuring General Pichegru getting nabbed by the police- his subsequent strangulation in his cell with his own cravat was deemed a suicide by officials, while Bonaparte's enemies maintained it was murder.


  1. A remarkable, self-made man who in many ways prefigured and broke ground for our modern world. Overthrowing the established order and inviting all citizens to be great - not just those of noble blood. Inspired by him, the French created empire. His laws, humane treatment of the long maligned Jews, and yes: architecture echo into our own day. Dictator? A loved dictator? I think we all long to conquer the world and bend it to our own genius and values. He did it! Vive!

  2. Sensational header, William. Really like it.

    Another interesting exhibit too. Thanks!

  3. I saw that "consecration" painting in Paris. It's fantastic. Just like so many other things in Paris. Sigh.

  4. such style. i love the oldie days. men and ladies had such style. class. ( :

  5. Collaborative museum exhibits are so special, especially when Paris is involved.


  6. What an interesting exhibit. I would have enjoyed this.

  7. what a wonderful exhibit, such great pieces!

  8. Napoleon was a very active influential politician. Unfortunately he started too many fights and many people disliked him.

  9. I am very interested in French History, and have visited his tomb. That coronation painting in the Louvre is one of my favorites.

  10. @Cloudia: he was quite complex.

    @Francisco: thank you.

    @Lauren: you're welcome.

    @Lowell: I'd love to see the original.

    @Beth: definitely.

    @Janis: this was quite an exhibit to get hold of.

    @Sharon: I definitely did.

    @Tanya: and more to come.

    @Red: starting a land war in Russia was one fight too many.

    @Janey: it is quite a painting.

  11. I guess the whole family must have been megalomaniacs.

  12. @Norma: it was.

    @RedPat: I thought so!

    @Whisk: very much so.

    @Revrunner: there's an argument to be made for that.

    @Bill: I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  13. This is a fascinating exhibit! Believe it or not, a nephew of Napoleon, Prince Achille Murat, lived in my city (Tallahassee, FL) many years ago. One of the earliest posts on my blog from 2008 shows a picture of the graves of both he and his wife in one of the old cemeteries downtown: http://tallydailyphoto.blogspot.com/2008/11/tallahassees-royalty.html

  14. Thanks for jogging my memory. It's been quite some time since I read the history of Napoleon and his exploits.

  15. How nice to be able to get up close to those paintings. Quite a nice exhibit. I'm sure I must have seen the coronation painting at the Louvre but what really impressed me there were Napoleon's apartments.

  16. Napoleon comes across as rather vain. Interesting post.

  17. @Lois: thanks for the link!

    @Mari: I took a lot of history, including this period, but still, there are things you learn through exhibits like this.

    @Linda: it was!

    @Kay: someday I'd love to see the Louvre.

    @Linda: he did have an ego!

  18. While I don't like to travel, we did go to Paris and these are terrific to see!