"Napoleon: Revolution to Empire" is a panoramic exhibition examining French art, culture and life from the 1770s to the 1820s. Its story runs from the first French voyages of discovery to Australia during the reign of Louis XV to the end of Napoleon's transforming leadership as first Emperor of France.
The exhibition brings to life the stormy period of social change ushered into France with the outbreak of the French Revolution, the execution of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and the rise to power of the young Napoleon Bonaparte and his new wife Josephine. Cementing their place as France's new political and social leaders, who sought to restore stability to their troubled nation, Napoleon and Josephine became great patrons of the arts, sciences and literature. Believing the advancement of knowledge to be integral to social order, they welcomed scientists and artists to receptions and dinners where world affairs were reshaped under their rule.
A dazzling couple, leaders of Europe in the Age of Exploration who defined taste for a new century, Napoleon and Josephine were fascinated by Australia. This newly discovered continent, the southern part of which had been named Terre Napoléon or Napoleon-land by French navigators, filled Josephine's hothouses with dozens of exotic new plants and flowers, as well as furnishing her and Napoleon with a private menagerie of kangaroos, emus and black swans.
As well as telling the remarkable story of France's close involvement with Australia in the early 1800s, Napoleon: Revolution to Empire brings to Australia for the first time hundreds of objects of breathtaking opulence and luxury – paintings, drawings, engravings, sculpture, furniture, textiles, porcelain, glass, gold and silver, fashion, jewellery and armour. Organised in partnership with the Fondation Napoléon, who are lending many of their greatest works, the exhibition also features incomparable treasures drawn from Europe's most important Revolutionary and Napoleonic collections, including the Château de Malmaison, Château de Versailles, Musée Carnavalet and Musée de l'Armée in France, the Napoleonmuseum Thurgau in Switzerland, and the Museo Napoleonico in Rome.
As well as participating in the organisation of the exhibition, the Fondation Napoléon has also loaned some one-hundred and thirty works of art. These works will be on display alongside items borrowed from some of the most prestigious collections in Europe. From France, institutions involved include the Louvre, the Château de Malmaison, the Musée de l'Armée and the Musée de l'Empéri. British involvement comes from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the National Gallery of Scotland (Edinburgh), whilst Switzerland will be represented by the Napoleonmuseum. The Museo Napoleonico in Rome and the Museo Glauco Lombardi in Parma will be representing Italy, and Austria will be represented by the Kuntshistorischesmuseum in Vienna. These loans will all be on display alongside items taken from Australian national collections.
2 June - 7 October, 2012
National Gallery of Victoria
180 St Kilda Road
Melbourne VIC 3000
Wednesday - Monday: 10am - 5pm
Opening times are provided purely for reference. The Fondation Napoléon offers no guarantee as to the accuracy of this information. Consultation with the institution before visiting is recommended. Click here for further information (external link).