An international scholarly online history journal on First and Second Empire subjects: articles, bibliographies, book reviews, in english and in french

Day one : Metropolitan Museum of Arts



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Day one of our itinerary starts on the Upper West Side in a group of buildings known as "Museum Row". Dedicate a whole day to this series of cultural Meccas but do not forget to treat yourself to some relaxation, such as a picnic or a siesta in Central Park! This oasis of grass and water (designed to rival the great London parks) covers 340 hectares of central Manhattan and was built between 1857 and 1870 by F. Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux.
Let us start with the (almost obligatory) Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the best art collections in the world. In fact, the immensity of the museum with its separate sections, each consecrated to a particular era or type of art, and the collections of donated works, makes trying to pick a Napoleonic course through it a bit of a treasure hunt. You will have to criss-cross the different sections to admire the magnificent paintings by Goya, David and Ingres before passing to those of the Second Empire by Winterhalter and Meissonier, the official artists, and Daumier, Courbet, Manet and Monet In addition to some surprises with the sculptures of Canova, Barye and Carpeaux, there is also an exceptional collection of objets d'art, notably the 1805 medal collection created through the joint work of Vivant Denon, Percier, Biennais and Desmalter.
Have a quick lunch at the museum or on Madison Avenue and head for the Frick Collection which, in contrast to the vast and sprawling Metropolitan, is human-sized. This private collection put together by a rich industrialist from Pittsburgh, Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919) was opened to the public in 1935. It occupies the ground floor of his private residence, a house built by Thomas Hastings in 1913-14 in the French neo-classic style. In the fact this town mansion, with its reproduction 18th Century and Empire salons, provides a marvellous setting for some wonderful art treasures, comprising European paintings from the 14th and 19th centuries, Renaissance bronzes, furniture (for the most part French), and Limoges enamels. An unforgettable collection! Of particular interest to those of a Napoleonic disposition is the extraordinary portrait by Ingres of Countess d'Haussonville, grand-daughter of Madame de Stael, as is the painting of countess Daru by David. David in fact painted the work in 1810 for the countess's husband, the Secretary of State and War Minister, in thanks for the minister's help in securing payment for the painting of Napoleon's coronation, itself a work now hanging in the Louvre. You can also admire the portrait of Lady Hamilton, by Romney, or the painting Césarine Davin-Mirvault (a pupil of David's) of the Italian musician Bartolomeo Bruni.
If you had a light lunch treat yourself to a wonderful snack from Stanhope's on the corner of 5th Avenue and 82nd Street. Or finish off your visit to the Upper West Side with a bit of window shopping at the famous fashion designers and jewellers. In fact, the diadem that Napoleon gave to his future empress, Josephine, for the coronation of 1804 is in the Van Cleef and Arpels collection. The Stair Mathiesen and the Malmaison boutique will be of principal interest for Napoleonic collectors. As for dinner, Le Bilboquet restaurant serves delicious French food.



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