Another exhibition in Paris: Napoléon, Symbols of Power

Empire style Josephine chair

Empire style Josephine chair

empire wallpaper

This should be another interesting exhibition (Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, until October 5, 2008.) See the slide show for a preview.

I have already mentioned Bonaparte’s deft handling of his own public image. He was also a micro-manager. No subject, however trivial, escaped his attention. He set out to reform not only the legal system, but also furniture design and female clothing (he found the prior fashions immodest.)

The result? Decorative arts as propaganda. A heavy, pompous neoclassical style dedicated to the celebration of the glory of the new ruler.  None of of the grace and refinement that had characterized the last years of the Old Regime, as exemplified by Marie-Antoinette’s taste.

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7 Comments to “Another exhibition in Paris: Napoléon, Symbols of Power”

  1. Catherine Delors says:

    For Josephine, I wonder what it was to be married to such a man as B. That in itself makes her intriguing.

    For my second book, I had to read the Memoirs of Fouche, who was Minister of Police under most of Bonaparte’s reign. Of course, maybe Fouche lies about her, but she doesn’t come across as very nice: spying on her husband for a ton of money, having her own daughter Hortense sleep with B. and bear his child in order to save her own marriage and status… Again maybe Fouche lies about it. Let me say that I am no Josephine expert. What I do like about her (and that’s undisputed) is her love of flowers. But maybe it’s not enough.

    I hope you stick with the poor Princess. And I promise I will report on these exhibits next week. I wanted to post on Laperouse first, because it is so rich, interesting and complex, both from a historical and human perspective.

  2. Danielle says:

    Perhaps I’ll just press on with the the edition I have and try not to worry so much about keeping everyone in the court straight!

    Have you ever thought about writing about Josephine B.? I’ve read some fictional account of her life as well as a biography, and find her so intriguing!

    And I’d love to hear more about the exhibits you’ve seen!

  3. Catherine Delors says:

    Ah Dani, no one ever said that being Madame B. was easy. I just saw the exhibition, by the way, and it was quite good. I will post on it shortly, but first I need to write about Laperouse, which was absolutely GREAT!

    For the Princess de Cleves, maybe the fault doesn’t lie with the translation. Yes, there many court characters, but the only ones that matter are the heroine, her mother, the Prince and the Duke. The rest is just background noise. I love your phrase about the Prince going “gaga” over Melle de Chartres. I never thought about him in these terms, but you are right. The poor man…

  4. Danielle says:

    What a wonderful exhibition. I know people who micromanage like that–it’s not a pretty sight and it can be difficult working for people like that!!
    Slightly off topic–I’ve not yet finished Princess of Cleves. Actually I think I am going to begin again with a different translation from the library. I got bogged down with the large cast of characters. I’m not sure whether to just continue on (since I’ve gotten to a good part–the Prince de Cleves has gone ga-ga over Mlle. de Chartres, and M. Nemours is in the background as well. I’m not sure how much I need to pay attention to the many court personages, or to only consider that background material?

  5. Catherine Delors says:

    Sheramy – I have a confession to make: I have never set foot there myself, but this will be a perfect opportunity to discover this museum.

    Eva – Perhaps all propagandists took a page off Napoleon’s book. He was a natural!

  6. Eva says:

    Interesting! This reminds me of ‘art’ during the Soviet Union too.

  7. Sheramy says:

    I picked the wrong summer to stay home, I think! This looks really interesting. I’ve never made it to that museum before.

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