A Perfect Viewpoint to Start the Day

Even though the Napoleon exhibit at the AGH is named after the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, it's not a political exhibition. You don't even have to be a fan of Napoleon or even know much about the man to enjoy the show. If you appreciate fine art and design, you'll find plenty here to make you go wow. Youll even find some things to make you laugh.

The treasures in this travelling exhibit, all from a single private collection, include 200-year-old French sculpture, paintings, textiles, silver, gold, porcelain, enamel, clothing, jewellery, illustrated books and even furniture and architectural design. As the most powerful figure in France at the time, Napoleon could hire the top artists and designers of his era, and this show reflects that quality. There are also a few mundane objects from daily life that remind us that not everything was Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous back then, even for the Rich and Famous!

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Fine Arts

The marble bust of Napoleon by Antonio Canova that is being used to advertise the exhibition (see above) is one of my favourite pieces of art in this show. Judging from other images of Napoleon, including ones in this exhibit, it's a very idealized version of the man, more like a Greek god than a human which was probably the artists intention, given his commission by the Great Man himself.

For a man who refused to sit for portraits, there are certainly a lot of paintings of Napoleon out there. Included in this show is one of the most famous, "Bonaparte Crossing the Alps by the Great Saint Bernard Pass" by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse with Jacques-Louis David, which shows Napoleon restraining a wildly excited horse that is rearing in the air. The descriptive card on the wall next to the painting explains that, in fact, he crossed the Alps on a mule more poetic license I guess?

Then there's the portrait of the young son of Napoleon and his second wife Maria Louisa. The chubby toddler reclines on the couch like a Roman emperor. A lot of heartache went in to creating this child, who was bred specifically to inherit his fathers throne. Because his true love and first wife, Josephine, couldn't bear him a child, Napoleon made the difficult choice to annul his first marriage and marry Maria Louisa, who soon gave birth to this child. Life being what it is, however, Napoleon lost his throne before any of that could happen, and the child wound up dying of TB at the age of 21 anyway.

After looking at these propaganda portraits, the painting of Marie Thrse Bourgoin by Henri Franois Riesener is a bit of a relief. Mme Bourgoin was an actress and was rumoured to be a mistress of Napoleons, a charge he denied. While still flattering to it's subject, the painting doesn't have that same trumpeting sound to it. Its more like an intimate portrait of an individual; Mme Bourgoin comes across as a woman with a sense of humour, judging by the smile playing on her lips and the twinkle in her eyes.

Craft and design and industrial arts

Moving on from the fine arts to the so-called crafts (many of which I'd argue are art objects themselves), you'll find this show features a range of personal goods, from Napoleons silver snuffbox to watches, sumptuous articles of clothing, a decorative doorknob, silverware, dishes, glasses, porcelain vases, silk fabric and furniture. One room is devoted to the designs for structures built for his coronation and include architectural sketches.

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Posted in Security Post Date 08/04/2018






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