KANSAS CITY, Mo. – “Napoleon: Power and Splendor” marks the first examination of the majesty and the artistic, political and ideological significance of Napoleon’s imperial court, from Napoleon’s coronation in 1804 to his final exile in 1815. The exhibition opens at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City on October 26 and aims to capture the spirit that prevailed in the French imperial court and to recreate the sumptuous ambiance of Napoleon’s reign.
A selection of more than 200 works, most of which have never before been exhibited in North America before this tour, will reveal the power and splendor of the Imperial Household and its role in fashioning a monarchic identity for the new emperor, his family and loyal entourage. The exhibition is organized and circulated by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) with the participation of the Nelson-Atkins, the Musée national du château de Fontainebleau, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It was curated by Sylvain Cordier, Curator of Early Decorative Arts at MMFA.
“I find it extraordinary that 200 years after his demise, the geopolitics of our world bear so much of Napoleon’s legacy,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “He emerged from the French Revolution and fought to impose his order on the rest of the word until his bitter end. The fact that his story resonates and fascinates today reflects his talent in harnessing the arts and the power of images.”
The Imperial Household was a key institution during Napoleon’s reign. It included 3,500 members in its retinue who were responsible for managing the daily lives of the imperial family and the day-to-day existence of former general Bonaparte, who became Emperor Napoleon in 1804. They also helped craft Napoleon’s image as emperor and modern hero.
Napoleon’s household relied on complex everyday functions in which the Emperor himself played an integral part. The exhibition installation will follow the six departments that made up the Imperial Household including the grand equerry, grand master of the hunt, grand chaplain, grand marshal of the palace, grand master of ceremonies, and the grand chamberlain.
Interpretive elements throughout will unpack for visitors the socio-historical significance of the household’s functions. Innovative scenography re-creates the splendor of palace life. The integration of immersive projection technologies will further enhance the spectacle and provide salient historical, cultural, and personal context that is immersive and engaging.
“The rich collection of objects that form this exhibition highlights the degree to which Napoleon harnessed the arts not only to strengthen his image, but also to bolster the French economy,” said Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, the Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Arts. “More than anything, this exhibition provides a portal into the exquisite breadth and level of skill of the artists and artisans in Napoleon’s employ.”
“Napoleon: Power and Splendor” brings together nearly 200 works of art. They are featured thanks to more than 40 distinguished lenders, including such institutions as the Louvre, the Château de Fontainebleau, the Mobilier national de France, the Musée national des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
“Napoleon: Power and Splendor” offers a unique opportunity to discover paintings, sculptures, furniture, silver and porcelain, tapestries, silk hangings, and court dress illustrating the opulence characteristic of the Empire in service of Napoleon’s spectacle of power.
The exhibition closes at the Nelson-Atkins March 10, 2019. It can be seen at Musée national du Château de Fontainebleau in France from April 13–July 15, 2019.
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