The Allure of Napoleon


28 January - 19 March 2017

The Museum’s collection contains an exceptional range of objects relating to Napoleon Bonaparte and the age he defined; all testifying to the allure of the man John Bowes dubbed “that old vagabond”.  Through these objects we can trace the changing faces of Napoleon, and the restless search for fame.

The self-cast Emperor loved and admired his first wife, Joséphine, doting on the children from her first marriage. However, desperate to have an heir when it was clear Joséphine could bear no more children, he divorced her and married the Hapsburg Princess Marie-Louise who bore him a son.

Napoleon made extensive use of his family in governing his empire. During childhood he developed close bonds with his seven surviving siblings and deeply religious mother Laetitia. When in power, he raised his brothers to the thrones of Europe and engineered strategic weddings for his sisters.

Napoleon’s rule unravelled as quickly as it had been constructed. Whilst he dominated the armies of Europe, towards the end of the French Revolution, he was denied control of the seas. Instead he tried to defeat Britain through economic warfare; a fatal blunder, the harrowing retreat of the Grande Armée from Moscow shattering Napoleon’s power.

Unwilling to resign himself to failure, he spent months trying to return to France which he achieved only to be defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and exiled to St Helena, from which there would be no escape.

The testimonial he dictated there proved a phenomenal bestseller, fixing his legacy for posterity. Napoleon became a popular Romantic hero, the myth and vigour of his achievements threatening to eclipse the memory of his rule. In 1840, his remains were repatriated to France and entombed in an above ground sarcophagus with solemnity at the military church of Les Invalides in Paris.

Essays written by Dr Tom Stammers, from the Department of History at Durham University, and Dr Véronique Gerard-Powell, former Chief Curator and senior lecturer at the Sorbonne in Paris, and other contributors to the exhibition are available to buy here>

Napoleon Amongst the Shopkeepers: Jacques-Louis David and England

Napoleon Amongst the Shopkeepers: Jacques-Louis David and England

7 March, 2.30, Free with Admission

Join Dr. Simon Lee, Associate Professor of the History of Art at the University of Reading, for a look at the English reception of the painter Jacques-Louis David, especially his 1815 exhibition in London, which was open at the same time as Napoleon began his Hundred Days campaign, which ended in his defeat at Waterloo. This talk also explores the process of identifying David’s portrait of Napoleon from 1814, which was unrecognised for many decades. 

Simon Lee's research interests cover aspects of the painting and sculpture of late eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century, especially the work of Francisco Goya, Jacques-Louis David and Eugène Delacroix. His publications include the volumes on David and Delacroix in the Phaidon Art & Ideas series and numerous articles, notably A newly discovered portrait of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David in the Burlington Magazine of October 2013.


(Image- Jacques-Louis David
Napoleon in the uniform of the National Guard, 1813, Oil on canvas, 73.5 x 59.5 cm. Private Collection. Credit Line- Collins Fine Art, New York).

Book now

Tags:

Name:
Email:
Subject:
Message:
x