Napoleon: Art and Court Life in the Imperial Palace provides a fresh perspective on one of history’s most iconic figures by revealing the vast machinery underpinning the everyday life of the Emperor and
his family. Spanning from Napoleon’s coronation in 1804 to his exile in 1815, the show brings together some 400 sumptuous works of fine and decorative art, many never before exhibited in North America. Viewers get a taste of the atmosphere of the Imperial Household, whose elaborate functioning, heavy on etiquette, required no fewer than 3,500 employees.
Extending from the throne room to the bedroom, the show offers both a first-row seat and a behind-the- scenes look at the Imperial extravaganza, meticulously designed to project a public image combining the spirit of the Enlightenment with certain values of the Ancien Régime. Among the many highlights are the gold altarpiece created for the marriage of Napoleon and the Archduchess Marie-Louise in 1810; the imperial throne from the palace of Monte Cavallo in Rome, the second capital of the Empire from 1809 to 1814; and a monumental painting by Ingres titled The Dream of Ossian (1813), commissioned to adorn the ceiling of Napoleon’s bed chamber in that same residence.