Malbrouck castle, built in the 15th century at the crossroads between three countries, is getting ready to welcome the "Imperial Splendour". The exhibition has been put together by the Conseil général of Moselle and the Fondation Napoléon, with the participation of eighteen museums and cultural institutions and several private collections.
Nearly three-hundred works of arts, historical objects, documents, manuscripts and other original items first of all tell the story of Napoleon through the major events of his extraordinary life. However, the pieces on display also form part of a wider picture regarding society of the period.
Napoleon and his destiny
The destiny of Napoleon Bonaparte winds its way from Ajaccio to Saint Helena, each major stage of which depicted, symbolically or otherwise, in the major works of art of the period. Included in the exhibition are David's 'tête couronnée' (1807) as well as preparatory sketches by the same artist for his magnificent painting of Napoleon's coronation. Next to these great works, other objects (Napoleon's Corps législatif throne, his hat that he wore at Waterloo), belonging to a different register, also guide the visitor through the story of the glorious Empire to its collapse.
The 'Empire' style
As part of the 'symbolic legitimisation of the sovereign', painting and sculpture were mobilised to suit the needs of the regime. These various arts also come across, however, as manifestations of an authentic 'art de vivre' in their own right, merely elevated to a much higher level. The work produced by the cabinet-makers and gold and bronze smiths, the incredible achievements of the watch-makers, and the items from the porcelain manufactories, are all testament, often breath-takingly so, to a quality of workmanship that the Emperor and his court encouraged and patronised.
The court and the imperial family
The imperial family played a very important role in the encouragement and support of various art mediums. The Empress Josephine, in particular, was at the forefront of this. Those closest to the Emperor, including Madame Mère as well as his brothers and sisters, also brought their influence to bear, both through their own personal commissions and in providing the actual subject matter for numerous paintings. A significant number of these works of art are on display at Malbrouck.
Napoleon on campaign
Amongst the various works of arts from this period, some took their inspiration, albeit indirect, from the various military campaigns launched by Napoleon. This is particularly evident in the 'return from Egypt' style, with such sites as Alexandria and the Sphinx recreated and celebrated in paintings. Elsewhere, battles from all across Europe are depicted and commemorated, bloody intervals in the Emperor's triumphant march which then turn against him, inflicting on him defeats and reversals. The engravings from the works by Carle Vernet immortalise no less then fifty-two Napoleonic battles, from Millesimo to Waterloo...
Napoleon, founder of modern France
Can the 'birth' of modern France, insitutionally speaking, compensate for imperial France's various wars and battles? In numerous cases, the Napoleonic period's heritage shines through. One need only mention the Code civil, the lycées, the baccalauréat, the Légion d'honneur as well as the organisation of 'départements', the Conseil d'Etat, the Cour des Comptes, prud'hommes and many other Napoleonic creations, of which the birth and development can be traced in the various historical documents on display at the exhibition.
Malbrouck castle: a background
The castle was begun by Arnold VI, lord of Sierck, in 1419 and finished in 1434, the year that the castle was declared capable of resisting a siege. It was not until 1705 however that the castle emerged onto the historical scene, with the Duke of Malbrouck and the Spanish wars of succession. It was designated a historical monument in 1930, bought by the Moselle Conseil Général in 1975 and entirely restored in 1998. Previous exhibitions to have taken place at the castle include "Ousmane Sow" (2004), an exhibition on dragoons (2005) and "Merveilleux" (2007 and 2008).
Splendeurs de l'Empire. Autour de Napoléon et de la cour impériale, in French and German.
Château de Malbrouck
Tel.: +33 (0)3 87 35 03 87
March and April: Monday 2pm - 5pm
Tuesday - Friday 10am - 5pm
Weekends and public holidays 10am - 6pm
May, June, July, August: Monday 2pm - 6pm
Tuesday - Friday 10am - 6pm
Weekends and public holidays 10am - 7pm