The Art of Napoleon

Portrait of NapolŽeon I in Coronation Robe, by Baron GŽrard, c. 1805-10

“Treasures of Napoleon,” a traveling exhibition featuring more than 300 objects — ranging from a lock of Josephine’s hair to the sword that proclaimed Bonaparte the Emperor of France in a coronation ceremony at Notre Dame — opens today at the Missouri History Museum.

Bonaparte Crossing the Alps by the Great Saint Bernard Pass by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse, c.1807

Before you enter the exhibit you are greeted by one of those amusement park “You Must Be As Tall As Napoleon To Enter This Exhibit” signs. Poor Napoleon, major world leader yet still subjected to short jokes. Turns out he was of average height for his time.

Crafted from the personal collection of Pierre-Jean Chalencon, the exhibit features personal objects and clothing of Napoleon I, portraits, busts, furniture and correspondence of the era. The 6,000-square-foot exhibition space is divided into a dozen sections covering the emperor’s life from his rise to power to his final exile and death.

It’s an impressive and exhaustively thorough collection. I had no idea when I got up this morning that I’d be staring at the long johns Napoleon wore shortly before his death. The exhibitors wisely save one of the best items for last: one of Bonaparte’s signature hats.

‘Treasures of Napoleon” runs through April 3 at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, St. Louis.


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