Napoleon and Elba: "Conversazioni" and a library for an emperor

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Chiostro di San Micheletto


Napoleon was recently the flavour of the month in Tuscany. Between 20 and 22 August, Roberta Martinelli, director of the Napoleonic residence museums on Elba, organised the annual Conversazioni (which have been running since 2007), three evening talks or events related to Napoleon, Elisa Bonaparte/Bacciocchi and early nineteenth-century life and culture. With the audiences topping three hundred each evening (resulting in a total of more than one thousand visitors for the three talks), this year's series marked a crescendo in public interest, laying the foundation for the upcoming bicentennial commemorations to be held on the island of Elba throughout 2014 and 2015.

A new addition to the museums

And as if that wasn't enough, on Wednesday 29 August, the 234 items comprising Marcello Pacini's Historical Library, “Napoleon and Elba”, was added to the Napoleonic residence museums on Elba. The signing of this free loan (commodato) of the works was held in the Demidoff Gallery at the Villa San Martino (Napoleon's country residence on the island) and the objects themselves were also delivered at the same time. Those present at the signing included Gian Carlo Borellini, the Superintendent BAPSAE for the provinces of Pisa and Livorno, Roberta Martinelli, Lucia Veronesi of the Regional Directorate for Cultural Heritage and Landscape of Tuscany and Marcello Pacini, owner of the Historic Library “Napoleon and Elba” collection.
Gian Carlo Borellini noted that: “This is a significant collection of items, which once again confirms the importance of this museum both as part of the Italian Ministry of Heritage and Culture strategy and regarding the museum's key position on the international circuit of Napoleonic sites.”

“What happens here at this museum is not a foregone conclusion: the frequency and quality of the free loans (commodati) on display is due to the strength of the relationship between different agencies, but also with the private sector. I would also first and foremost like to thank the owner of the collection, Marcello Pacini, on behalf of the directors, and to bear witness to his selfless generosity, passion and care.”
The Marcello Pacini collection brings to five the number of private loans made under the direction of Roberta Martinelli. The Napoleonic museums on Elba are the second most visited museum complex in Tuscany, after the Uffizi, and the prestigious current loans include Napoleon's camp bed (owned by Lorenzo Da Pra and exhibited at the Palazzina dei Mulini), two splendid Empire tables (owned by the Fondazione della Cassa di Risparmio di Livorno), and a collection of photographs (owned by Lucca antique dealer Renata Frediani). At the end of July these deposits were joined by the portrait of Sir Neil Campbell, bequeathed by English patron Nigel Widdowson. “The birth of this loan can be traced back to the Fondation Napoléon exhibition “Napoleon. Imperial Splendour,” said the director Roberta Martinelli, noting that it was at this event that Dr Pacini expressed his desire to offer his precious collection to the museum.

The collector

View of Portoferraio<i> (Anonymous, 1705, oil on canvas) – Photo Laugh</i>” />Marcello Pacini was born in Portoferraio, and was mayor there between 1966-1968. He lives in Turin, where from 1976 to 2001 he was director of the Fondazione Giovanni Agnelli. He was Member of Parliament, from 2001 to 2006 and President of the Parliamentary Assembly delegation to the OECD. Author of several socio-political publications, he owns a rich collection of objects related to Elba and Napoleon which he has been adding to since the 1990s.<BR><!-- /paragraph3 --></p>
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<h2>The Library</h2>
<p><!-- paragraphimage4 --> <BR>The Historical Library “Napoleon and Elba” is made up of six sections and two appendices.<BR><BR>The first section contains handwritten documents, such as orders and letters, which testify to the effect the Emperor's presence had on the island. The collection contains eleven letters from Napoleon: two written from Saint Cloud, concerning the government administration of Elba in 1810 and 1811, and nine written from Elba relating to various management problems of the emperor's new miniature kingdom (such as the purchase of a boat and budget reductions). The second section contains text and images of Napoleon at Elba, published in 1814-1815 (including a portrait of his faithful maréchal Henri Bertrand Palace and a rare copy of the <EM>Rentrée de Napoléon le Grand dans la capitale de l 'Empire Français. Le 20 mars 1815</EM>, printed in Paris in that year), and upto his death. This section documents the political climate of the years 1814-1815 with books, pamphlets, and prints published mainly in France, England and Italy. There are accounts of representatives of the victorious powers that accompanied the emperor on his journey from Paris to Portoferraio, news regarding the location of the island that made headlines worldwide, and examples of political satire inspired by the emperor's new kingdom. These two sections form the heart of the collection.<BR> <BR>The third section features documents on the French Empire's island territories (1802-1814) and some handwritten documents on the strengthening of the fortresses of Portoferraio and Longone. Section four is a snapshot of Elba before Napoleon's arrival, as if the emperor, before leaving France, had asked his aides for all the existing documentation upto 1814. Of particular note is the painting <EM>View of Portoferraio, Portoferraio Perspective </EM>(Anonymous, 1705). This section also features maps by Ptolemy. The fifth section is in actual fact a selection of texts and images from 1822 until 1880, the year the Demidoff Library was sold off, whilst the sixth and final section of the materials covers the residences and the Napoleonic Museum Demidoff. Annexe A is a selection of texts that, although published after 1880, offer analysis of particular aspects of the presence of Napoleon at Elba, whilst Annexe B features catalogues and documentary items. These documents chart the evolution of the island's image in Italy and abroad on the back of the Napoleon episode, the island's inclusion in the Grand Tour, and the development of tourism – in particular English – on the island. This series of books and images related to Napoleon, with items ranging from 1880 to 1950, will be of immense benefit to the museum's library, which up to this point has felt incomplete.<BR><!-- /paragraph4 --></p>
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