This summer the Musée de l'Armée at Invalides had an exhibition highlighting Napoléon and his impact in Europe that we attended. Napoléon Bonaparte deeply marked the history of Europe and the exhibition reflected the French emperor’s European ambitions between 1793 and 1815, providing a fresh analysis of his impact on war, politics, public administration, currency, propaganda and art. As early as the time of the Consulate, Napoléon had undertaken major reforms in order to construct a robust state with healthy finances, a competent administration, a disciplined police force and an efficient judicial system. Through the unification of weights and measures, the dissemination of the French language, the creation of professional administrations and through his huge project for the codification and unification of the laws, Napoléon permanently modified the face of France and of Europe. This was such an interesting exhibition that I have decided to devote at least two posts to the exhibition. This post will focus on images of Napoléon from the exhibition and some I have from the Musée de l'Armée and the Louvre. The exhibit opened with the large and spectacular painting, Napoléon Crossing the Alps by David, seen above.
One of the first things you notice when you approach Les Invalides is the row of cannons facing outward across a small moat. These are not little cannons, they are for the most part giant beasts requiring iron trolleys just to stay in place. These pieces are part of the Musée de l'Artillerie (Museum of Artillery, founded in 1785 in the aftermath of the French Revolution and expanded under Napoleon). It was moved into the Hôtel des Invalides in 1871, immediately following the Franco-Prussian War and the proclamation of the Third Republic. The collection was augmented by collections from the National Library, the Louvre, the Artillery of Vincennes, the Hôtel des Monnaies and many private collections. Another institution called the Musée Historique de l'Armée (Historical Museum of the Army) was created in 1896 following the World Fair. The two were merged in 1905 into the Musée de l'Armee.