While we were in Paris this summer, the Musée de l'Armée had an exhibit, Napoleon and Europe. Part of the exhibit was the fabulous “Chaumet Crown” and the Ruby Parure for Archduchess Marie-Louis of Austria, Napoleon's second wife. Chaumet traces its origins to 1780. Founded by Marie-Etienne Nitot who along with his son Francois-Regnault Nitot became the official jewelers to Napoleon I during the Consulate and the Empire. Napoleon was a real wife-pleaser, lavishing an avalanche of gemstones upon his lady-loves. In the autumn of 1810 an order was placed with the emperor’s favorite jeweler, François-Regnault Nitot, in honor of his new wife, Archduchess Marie-Louise of Habsburg, the daughter of Emperor Franz I of Austria and niece of Marie-Antoinette. During the autumn of 1810, Nitot, began crafting two new parures, one of emeralds and diamonds, the other of rubies and diamonds. The finished pieces were delivered to the emperor on January 16, 1811. The Ruby Parure set used nearly 400 rubies and more than 6,000 diamonds in all. Both Napoléon I and Napoleon III seemed to love jewels and lavished them on their companions. I thought a post would be a good opportunity to review the history of the French Crown Jewels during and after Napoléon I.
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.
The Rosetta Stone is a very famous historical artifact, almost everyone has heard of it and most people know it has something to do with language. It is a black basalt slab that provided scholars with their first key to ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing. Prior to this point Egyptian hieroglyphics were considered to be a pictorial form of writing without a real grammar and the Egyptians were considered by the English to be a backward people. Using the Rosetta Stone as a dictionary, scholars were able to translate other inscriptions and manuscripts written in hieroglyphics opening up three thousand years of remarkable Egyptian history. The stone was discovered in 1799 near el-Rashid, known as Rosetta in Egypt, by a French engineer of Napoleon's army, Captain François-Xavier Bouchard, built into the wall of an ancient Arab fort (Fort St Julien) which he'd been assigned to tear down.
The gardens of the Grand Trianon are smaller than the extensive formal grounds of the estate but are impressive nonetheless. Trianon is the palace of gardens, every room has a view of the gardens, which are entirely devoted to flowers, with a stunning number of varieties chosen for their colors and scents. “The tuberoses drive us away from Trianon every evening,” Madame de Maintenon wrote in a letter dated 8 August 1689. “The excess of fragrance causes men and women to feel ill.” All the decoration, paintings and panel sculptures are based on flowers.
The Pont Neuf runs between the right and left banks of the Seine River in the middle of Paris, on its way touching one end of the Ile de la Cite where Notre Dame stands. As you can see in the photograph it is divided into two parts, one of seven arches joining the right bank to the Île de la Cité, another of five joining the island to the left bank. The little park in the center is called Square du Vert-Galant, a park named in honor of Henry IV, who was nicknamed the “Green Gallant”. The park is a great place to relax if you are at Notre Dame or the Louvre, go up to the other end of the island if you are at Notre Dame or just down from the Louvre. The best views are from the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge just upstream, which is why I included both in the post. Get some ice creme from Berthillon (see my post) or bring a lunch.
Napoleon Bonaparte is a larger than life figure. In life he aspired to recombine the empire of Charlemagne, something a long line of French kings failed to do. He struck a chord with the French people, in death they enshrined him, as he asked, on the bank of the Seine in a larger than life casket wrapped in the sumptuous Dôme des Invalides. Napoleon left his mark everywhere in France and appropriately in the Château de Versailles. While Napoléon did not reside in the château, apartments were, however, arranged and decorated for the use of the empress Marie-Louise. The emperor chose to reside at the Grand Trianon.
If you are visiting the Eiffel tower and looking for something else to do, you might consider the French Maritime Museum at the Trocadero, the largest in the world. Apart from Napoleon’s canot, seen below, another striking feature in the first room at the Paris Musée de la Marine is the painting of the arrival of Napoleon III at Gênes in 1859, by Théodore Gudin seen above.
In 1748, Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau offered a collection of models of ships and naval installations to Louis XV of France, with the request that the items be displayed at the Louvre and made available to students of the Naval engineers school, which Duhamel headed. The collection was put on display in 1752, in a room of the first floor, next to the Academy of Sciences; the room was called “Salle de Marine” (Navy room), and was used for teaching. King Charles X decided to create the maritime museum in 1827, which he named the Musée Dauphin but after 1830 the name was changed to what we know it as today, the Musée de Marine.
After going to Napoleons tomb, we were hungry and stopped at this little cafe across from the Dome. It was raining and we were mainly stopping to get out of the rain but we were surprised by the good food.
I had the osso bucco with penne pasta, the meat was really tender! I also had a house Bordeaux which was really good and cheap. I can’t get over how inexpensive French wines are here compared to the US.
Lisa had the nicoise salad, full of haricot vert, little bits of potato and tuna that had been lightly marinated.
The service was good, the food was tasty and it has a dead on view of the dome. Even though it’s a little touristy, if you’re in the neighborhood, you might check it out.
Proposed by Louis XIV in 1670 as a home for “invalids” – disabled and impoverished war veterans, Les Invalides was designed by Libéral Bruant and completed in 1676. Shortly after the veterans' chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned Mansart to construct a separate private royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature. Inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the original for all Baroque domes, it is one of the triumphs of French Baroque architecture.
The dome itself is 107 meters high (351 ft) making it one of the tallest monuments in Paris, and was centrally placed in order to dominate the court of honor – one of 15 courtyards at the complex, designed for military parades. The inside of the dome was painted by Charles de La Fosse, disciple of 18th century well-known French painter, Charles Le Brun.
The doors seen you see to the right are covered in gold leaf, 25 feet tall, weigh almost 3 tons and have several symbols on them. The top round monogram is Louis XIV with two crossed “L's”. The two round monograms framing the fleur de lis of France in the middle are for Saint Louis, King Louis IX. The square section between is topped with two trophy helmets, the sun with a human face for Louis XIV (he believed he was unique and radiant like the sun) and finally the coat of arms for the kings of France, three golden fleur de lis on a sea of blue.
In an ordinance of 1670 Louis XIV announced the building of a shelter for old soldiers, “to construct a royal building of sufficient size and space to receive and lodge all officers and men who are crippled or old and frail and to guarantee sufficient funds for their subsistance and upkeep.”
Louis himself chose the design of Liberal Bruant. The first stone was laid in 1671, and in 1674 the first old soldiers entered, and were received in person by Louis XIV. Today it is still a hospital and has a number of museums. Napoleon is buried under the dome.
Two or three officers shared a room, while soldiers had small dormitories of four or six beds. On being accepted the candidate was given a comb, wooden spoon, knife, uniform and shoes. Married soldiers were allowed to sleep out twice a week. All were obliged to attend mass on Sunday. No wine or food was allowed in the rooms, and smoking and women were not allowed anywhere inside Invalides.