HomeImperial Material: Napoleon's Legacy in Culture, Art, and Heritage, 1821-2021

HomeImperial Material: Napoleon's Legacy in Culture, Art, and Heritage, 1821-2021

Imperial Material: Napoleon's Legacy in Culture, Art, and Heritage, 1821-2021

L’héritage napoléonien dans la culture, l’art et le patrimoine (1821-2021)

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Published on Monday, July 05, 2021 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

Il y a exactement deux cents ans, Napoléon Bonaparte mourrait sur une petite île au milieu de l'océan Atlantique. Ayant passé les six dernières années de sa vie en exil à Sainte-Hélène, à l'écart du pouvoir politique et militaire, une situation qui lui a permis, de manière relativement inhabituelle, de travailler à préserver et façonner son héritage posthume. Une entreprise couronnée de succès puisqu’il est devenu un véritable phénomène. Cependant, peu de travaux ont été menés pour faire dialoguer ces diverses histoires culturelles qui manquent encore à l’historiographie. C’est pourquoi nous invitons donc les chercheur·ses de toutes les disciplines, ainsi que les professionnel·les des musées et du patrimoine, à réfléchir à l'héritage et à la postérité matérielle et visuelle de Napoléon, à sa pérennité, à l’impact sur notre compréhension du passé de l’interprétation et l’utilisation de cet héritage, dans une démarche critique.

Announcement

Online Workshop, 3rd September 2021

Argument

Napoleon Bonaparte died exactly two hundred years ago on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He had spent the last six years of his life in exile on St Helena, removed from political and military power, in the unusual situation of being able to try to shape and preserve his own posthumous legacy. He was, in a way, phenomenally successful. Napoleon is an instantly recognisable name to this day, and despite growing efforts in recent years to critically revise his reputation and highlight his role in issues such as the reinstatement of slavery, he has largely managed to escape the same level of historical censure as other infamous military dictators. This is perhaps partly because his name has become such an adaptable brand, standing for an entire era of people, places, and events, as well as a full two centuries’ worth of art, craft, and consumer commodities. While other events marking the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death have weighed his contributions to legislative, political, and military reform, less work has been done to confront his vast material, visual, and cultural legacy. 

Napoleon’s death in 1821 prompted a frenzy of creation and circulation of materials relating to him, a whirling international trade in objects, images, texts and memorabilia which has essentially never since ceased. Death masks were made, shipped to Europe, waylaid, stolen, copied, and taken around Latin America by one of his doctors. Portraits were exchanged and exhibited, caricatures continued to abound, and actors took on the mantle of the Emperor from the stage to the film set. Personal items belonging to Napoleon were gifted to friends and family, collected by his admirers, and displayed at public exhibitions around the world: his horse, the key to his room, his toothbrush. These items make national headline news to this day when they are rediscovered, are sold for monumental sums to contemporary collectors and serve as key advertising strategies for museums. Napoleonic items can be official or personal, serious or comical, luxury or disposable: the former emperor can be equally thought of as a monumental Neoclassical marvel in white marble, as Joaquin Phoenix, or as a tiny cartoon figure astride a fat pony – yet little work has so far been done to bring together these diverse cultural histories in conversation.

We therefore invite researchers of all disciplines, and museum and heritage professionals, to reflect on the enduring material and visual legacy of Napoleon, what our interpretation and use of it means for the future as well as how it affects our understanding of the past. Possible themes for papers include:

  • Napoleon in theatre, TV and film; in music; in poetry; in art, sculpture and drawing; in books, ephemera, printing, paratext
  • Napoleon in exhibitions and museums: museum histories, interpretations of collections, and how objects are presented to the public, including in past, present and future events; how Napoleon is used in marketing strategies or public engagement
  • Private collecting and the choices and agency of collectors, including by historians; the memorabilia trade both in the 19th century and up to today; Napoleonic tourism and the creation, looting or buying of souvenirs from significant places
  • Gender, sexuality, and Napoleonic memory; involvement of women as collectors, curators, consumers
  • Race and empire: critical histories and commentaries on Napoleonic representations
  • Medical histories of Napoleonic objects
  • Dress, fashion, appearance
  • Home décor
  • Religion and the macabre
  • Animals ­and Napoleonic symbolism
  • The ‘golden’ or ‘rosy’ vs. ‘black’ legend of Napoleon and ongoing critical interpretations
  • Comedy and ridicule
  • Romanticisation, neoclassical heroism, masculinity
  • Circulation and object histories
  • Re-enactment
  • Public commemoration; plaques, monuments, iconoclasm
  • Napoleon and antiquity

Confirmed keynote

Dr Ruth Scurr (University of Cambridge) ‘Napoleon: A Life Told in Gardens and Shadows, in Discussion’

Please submit abstracts for short 15-minute papers, along with a short bio, to ImpMatWorkshop@gmail.com

by 12 July 2021.

(Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words.) Following the workshop, we plan to pursue the publication of selected papers as a collected edition.

Convenors

Dr Matilda Greig (Cardiff University) and Dr Nicole Cochrane (University of Exeter)

Subjects

Date(s)

  • Monday, July 12, 2021

Keywords

  • Napoléon, empire, héritage, culture, art, patrimoine, napoléonien

Contact(s)

  • Matilda Greig
    courriel : impmatworkshop [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Matilda Greig
    courriel : impmatworkshop [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« Imperial Material: Napoleon's Legacy in Culture, Art, and Heritage, 1821-2021 », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, July 05, 2021, https://calenda.org/891723

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