Exhibition | Napoleon: The Imperial Household

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 2, 2017

On this day, 2 December, in 1804, Napoleon became emperor of the French. This exhibition exploring the imperial household opens in February in Montreal:

Napoleon: The Imperial Household / Napoléon: La maison de l’empereur
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 3 February — 6 May 2018
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 9 June — 3 September 2018
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, 4 October 2018 — 13 January 2019
Musée National du Château de Fontainebleau, 13 April — 15 July 2019

Joseph Franque, Empress Marie-Louise Watching over the Sleeping King of Rome, 1811 (Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon).

The Imperial Household was a key institution during the reign of Napoléon Bonaparte (1769–1821). It was responsible for the daily lives of the Imperial family and the day-to-day existence of former general Bonaparte, who became Emperor Napoleon in 1804. Napoleon: The Imperial Household aims to re-create the ambience and capture the spirit that prevailed in the French court during the Empire. A selection of works and objets d’art, most of which have never before been exhibited in North America, will reveal the Imperial Household’s role in fashioning a monarchic identity for the new emperor who ruled France following the Revolution, as well as his family and loyal entourage.

The Imperial Household consisted of six departments, each headed by a grand officer, a high-ranking dignitary of the Empire: the grand chaplain, grand master of ceremonies, grand marshal of the Palace, grand master of the hunt, grand chamberlain and grand equerry were each involved in orchestrating every minute of the pageantry in the Court. This is another aspect of the Napoleonic saga that will be presented here, with more than 250 works in which the fine arts and decorative arts were used for purposes of ideology and official propaganda.

Sylvain Cordier, Napoleon: The Imperial Household (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018), 350 pages, ISBN: 978 030023 3469, $50 / £40.

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Note (added 17 August 2018) — The posting was updated to include dates for venues other than Montreal. It’s also worth noting that the exhibition title varies according to location; in Richmond and Kansas City it’s called Napoleon: Power and Splendor.

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