“Treasures”. The word is not exaggerated when describing the archival documents presented in this catalogue of the eponymous exhibition organised by the French National Archives as part of the bicentenary of the death of Napoleon I-2021 Année Napoléon. This catalogue, which has been carefully and attractively produced, thus honours the quality of the work of the draughtsmen, engineers, etc. who created these documents intended to document the Emperor’s decision-making process. Because of the density of the works and the unexpected that arises at the turn of many pages, a visit to the exhibition in no way precludes the acquisition of this catalogue, and vice versa! Vocations will certainly be born, long live the Archives! (Irène Delage)
Created on 25 December 1799, the Imperial State Secretariat was a vital organ of the Empire, an essential cog in the administrative machine that prepared Napoleon I’s decisions and whose archives today constitute a veritable iconographic treasure. On the occasion of the bicentenary of the Emperor’s death, an exhibition at the French National Archives makes these graphic documents accessible: more than 100 plans, drawings, maps, letters and decrees, some of them signed by the Emperor’s hand, restored and then digitised thanks to an appeal launched in 2017 in partnership with the Fondation Napoléon, are shown to the public for the first time in these pages.
Embroidery designs, aerostat projects, technical plans, maps of departments and regions, territorial delimitations, bridge projects and road layouts, fortification plans, architectural drawings: exceptional documents, finely executed, sometimes of impressive dimensions (in this work, the hydrographic map of the Rhine is reproduced on a 6-page fold-out, to be discovered for their historical, graphic and artistic interest. Without a doubt, they are a reflection of the imperial conquests, whether symbolic or real, and reveal to us a little-known part of Napoleon’s genius.
Exhibition > “Drawing for Napoleon. The Masterpieces of the imperial State Secretariat”
10 March – 19 July 2021
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