The Eye of Napoléon

Event  |  Reviews  |  Comments
Colossal Bust of Napoléon, ca. 1810 Marble © Courtesy of Art Gallery of Hamilton
Imperial Bed of the King of Westphalia , 1770-1841 Painted And Gilded Wood And Silk Installation © Courtesy of Art Gallery of Hamilton / Photo: Mike Lalich
The Eye of Napoléon

123 King Street West
Hamilton, ON L8P 4S8
November 10th, 2012 - May 5th, 2013
Opening: November 10th, 2012 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Bloordale Village / The Junction
Tuesday & Wednesday 11am - 6pm, Thursday 11:00 am - 8:00 pm, Friday 11:00 am - 6:00 pm, Saturday & Sunday 12:00 noon - 5:00 pm


For all of his military exploits as the great conqueror of modern times, Napoléon was equally astute as a cultural imperialist, bringing French art and industry to a new flowering that aimed to surpass the achievements of antiquity while serving to cement his power and advance his geopolitical ambitions. Drawn from the Chalençon Collection (Paris, France), perhaps the world’s foremost private collection of Napoléonic material, The Eye of Napoléon presents some 200 rare objects that together provide insight into Napoléon’s aesthetic interests, private life, and the remarkable achievement of French painters, draftsmen, and decorative artists working in the Empire Style.

The exhibition’s exceptional quality and range of materials and techniques demonstrates how Napoléon nurtured and harnessed the glories of French art and craftsmanship, always with a special understanding of how things would be interpreted out in the world. From the period’s most renowned artists—painters such as Antoine-Jean Gros and Jean-Baptiste Regnault, and sculptors Jean-Antoine Houdon and Antonio Canova—Napoléon commissioned signal works that imaged the pomp of his reign and diffused his likeness, while gesturing to the cultural authority of the antique. Recalling from his readings in history that every great ruler pervaded an era, Napoléon likewise sought to impress his mark on every domain of the decorative arts, exemplified in the exhibition through magnificent examples of Sèvres porcelain, jewellery and elaborate personal effects.

Also featuring personal items, including Napoléon’s hat, snuffbox and collapsible campaign bed, the exhibition affords us a glimpse of Napoléon the man and functions as an object lesson on how the things with which we surround ourselves define our public identity.