New furnishings for the National Museums of the Napoleonic Residences on Elba

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The press conference

On 26 September, 2010, as part of the European heritage days, new acquisitions to the National Museums of the Napoleonic Residences on Elba were presented to the public.
These new furnishings were purchased by the Pisa and Livorno local government heritage departments (Sovrintendenza per i beni architettonici, paesaggistici, storici, artistici e etnoantropologici per le province di Pisa e Livorno, director Agostino Bureca) and they are to be installed in the National Museums of the Napoleonic Residences on Elba, managed by Roberta Martinelli.
It was during a press conference held on Saturday 25 September in the Galleria Demidoff – Villa San Martino near Portoferraio (one of the two Napoleonic residences) as part of the European Heritage Days, that the new furnishings were presented and mounted in a temporary exhibition before finding their permanent home in the rooms lived in by Napoleon during the “three hundred days” of rule on Elba.
The new acquisitions include two carved gilt chairs, a circular table, two candelabra, a table clock, a tric-trac table  and four chairs “a gondola”, and they were presented by Agostino Bureca, the Director Roberta Martinelli, Italy's best empire-period furniture expert, Enrico Colle, (Mr Colle has previously worked on the cataloguing of the existing furniture in Elba Napoleonic museums), and a member of the steering committee of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmi di Livorno, Gabriele Magnoni. Also present was Antonella Giuzio, Assessore for culture and tourism for the commune of Portoferraio, who acts as an important lynchpin between the commune and the local government heritage departments particularly bearing in mind the preparations for the commemorations in 2014 of the bicentenary of Napoleon's arrival on the island of Elba, a project which will also involve the Elba local tourist agency.
The acquisitions were made possible by the action of the Pisa and Livorno local government heritage departments. During the press conference, Agostino Bureca noted that: “These objects are particularly valuable, and they were selected after careful historical research performed by the museum. In fact, the pieces are listed on the Mobilier or inventory of furnishings ordered by Napoleon in 1814 for his residences on Elba. The acquisition as such is part of the international project promoted by the Italian and French culture ministries for the commemoration of the bicentenary of Napoleon's presence on the island”.
The director of the Napoleonic residence museums on Elba, Roberta Martinelli went into further details about the new pieces: “From a stylistic and historical point of view, the most important furnishings are the two carved gilt chairs and the two winged-victory candelabra, both of 'imperial' manufacture. All these objects were bought on the private antique market and were targeted as a result of careful historical research in previously unpublished source material. The project within which this work took place, called 'Da Parigi alla Toscana: il gusto del vivere al tempo di Napoleone ed Elisa', began in 2007 and has involved a series of projects, events and studies all looking towards the commemoration events planned for the bicentenary of Napoleon's arrival on Elba. The furnishings presented here will be given definitive places in the two Napoleonic residences, and as a result of the fundamental synergy on the part of the museums and the Pisa and Livorno local government heritage department the residences themselves will made fit to receive them”.
Enrico Colle spoke of the characteristics of the new furnishings, underlining the stylistic characteristics of greatest impor and value, giving particular emphasis to the birth and spread of the so-called “Empire style”.
Gabriele Magnoni spoke on behalf of the president of the funding body, Luciano Barsotti, remarking that: “The Fondazione Cassa di Risparmi di Livorno has for years worked in support of the museums of the Napoleonic residences on Elba. And this support has now its visible expression in the continuing acquisition of authentic furnishings for the Napoleonic residences on Elba, notwithstanding the current difficult financial climate, and it will continue to support all the initiatives related to the celebration of the bicentenary of the emperor's arrival on Elba”.

The new acquisitions

Set of two chairs, in carved gilded wood, very similar in form to period Parisian chairs brought to Naples by Murat; similar chairs, of neapolitan manufacture and dated to the beginning of the 19th century, are today held at the Reggia di Caserta.
Table clock, in chased gilt bronze. Porcelain dial topped by a female figure reclining on a dormeuse or chaise longue, French manufacture, early 19th century.
Circular table, in mahogany, table top in black marble. Full relief sculpted sphynxes in gilt wood and partially painted imperial green. Lion's paw feet, Italian manufacture, early 19th century.
Set of two candelabra, in gilt, patina-ed bronze, the shaft is fashioned in form of the figure of a winged victory holding a six-branched candelabrum, French manufacture, early 19th century.
Gaming table, for 'tric-trac', mahogany veneer, French manufacture, first quarter of the 19th century.
Set of four “a gondola” chairs, mahogany with chased gilt bronze decoration, French manufacture, first quarter of the 19th century.

Enrico Colle

Enrico Colle is a specialist in decorative arts and frequently collaborator with the local government heritage department in Florence (he has participated in the catalogue for the furnishings and objets d'art at the Pitti Palace and the Grand ducal residences and he is particularly interested in the correct museographical positioning of works). He is currently studying the existing furnishings and interior decorations in the ex-royal residences in Italy and, on behalf of the Milan commune, is overseeing the refurbishment of the piano nobile rooms in the Palazzo Reale.

Honorary inspector

He has furthermore been appointed by the Italian Ministry of Culture as an honorary inspector for the local government heritage department in Florence, and in this role he will sit on the commission established for the census of the furnishings once belonging to the different royal palaces in Italy. In this context, he has undertaken archival research on the royal furniture in Caserta and Naples, in the Sabaudo residences in Piedmont and in the Chigi Saracini palaces in Siena. For the directors of the Milanese communal civic collections of applied arts (Civiche Raccolte d'Arti Applicate del comune di Milano) he has compiled a systematic catalogue of the furniture in the Castello Sforzesco and has provided plans for the new museum design. He is also general editor of a book series on the decorative arts for the Italian art publishing house Electa.

The ‘Napoleon and Elisa: from Paris to Tuscany’ project

The 'Napoleon and Elisa: from Paris to Tuscany' project is promoted by the Direzione Regionale per i Beni culturali e paesaggistici della Toscana via the Director, dottoressa Maddalena Ragni, and is part funded by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmi di Livorno. It began in 2007 and in recent years has witnessed events of different sorts in both Lucca and Livorno, the publications of several books and the mounting of the exhibition of nationwide importance “Napoleone. Fasto Imperiale. I tesori della Fondazione Napoléon” housed in the national museums of the Napoleonic residences on the island of Elba, and which had been previously seen in France, Mexico and Germany. The 'Napoleon and Elisa' project aims to organise a series of events which, in the run to 2014, will commemorate the arrival of the emperor Napoleon on the island of Elba. This series of events is subject to an international agreement between the Italian and French Ministries of culture (with the participation of the Fondation Napoléon), signed at the France/Italy summit meeting held in Lucca on 24 November, 2006. The principal aim of all these events is the communication to a wider public of the previously unknown and surprising aspects of the life of the great emperor and his family, derived either from known sources or previously unknown and taken from archives in France, Britain or Austria.

Contact details

For further information on this “Da Parigi alla Toscana: il gusto di vivere al tempo di Napoleone ed Elisa” project, contact the project press office:

Anna Benedetto +39 347.40.22.986;
Lucia Maffei +39 348.38.00.923;

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