The Bowes Museum > Exhibitions > 2017 > The Allure of Napoleon

The Allure of Napoleon


28 January - 19 March 2017

The Museum’s collection contains an exceptional range of objects relating to Napoleon Bonaparte and the age he defined; all testifying to the allure of the man John Bowes dubbed “that old vagabond”.  Through these objects we can trace the changing faces of Napoleon, and the restless search for fame.

The self-cast Emperor loved and admired his first wife, Joséphine, doting on the children from her first marriage. However, desperate to have an heir when it was clear Joséphine could bear no more children, he divorced her and married the Hapsburg Princess Marie-Louise who bore him a son.

Napoleon made extensive use of his family in governing his empire. During childhood he developed close bonds with his seven surviving siblings and deeply religious mother Laetitia. When in power, he raised his brothers to the thrones of Europe and engineered strategic weddings for his sisters.

Napoleon’s rule unravelled as quickly as it had been constructed. Whilst he dominated the armies of Europe, towards the end of the French Revolution, he was denied control of the seas. Instead he tried to defeat Britain through economic warfare; a fatal blunder, the harrowing retreat of the Grande Armée from Moscow shattering Napoleon’s power.

Unwilling to resign himself to failure, he spent months trying to return to France which he achieved only to be defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and exiled to St Helena, from which there would be no escape.

The testimonial he dictated there proved a phenomenal bestseller, fixing his legacy for posterity. Napoleon became a popular Romantic hero, the myth and vigour of his achievements threatening to eclipse the memory of his rule. In 1840, his remains were repatriated to France and entombed in an above ground sarcophagus with solemnity at the military church of Les Invalides in Paris.

Essays written by Dr Tom Stammers, from the Department of History at Durham University, and Dr Véronique Gerard-Powell, former Chief Curator and senior lecturer at the Sorbonne in Paris, and other contributors to the exhibition are available to buy here>

Related Events


The Fall of Napoleon

17 February, 2.15

The Fall of Napoleon

Join Dr. Munro Price, University of Bradford, to hear the story of the dramatic two years leading up to Napoleon's abdication in April 1814, during which time he lost both his European empire and his control over France itself. Such an outcome was by no means inevitable, and at several key moments Napoleon's enemies offered him peace terms that would have allowed him to keep his throne, if not his empire. However, he consistently rejected such a compromise, instead to gamble on total victory at the risk of utter defeat. This talk will attempt to shed some new light on this conundrum that led directly to Napoleon's fall.


Napoleon I

22 February, 12.30 - 4.00

Napoleon I Learn about Napoleon Bonaparte in The Allure of Napoleon exhibition and create your very own bicorn hat and much more in this drop in session. Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies.

Napoleon & the Use of Propaganda

27 February, 2.15

Napoleon & the Use of Propaganda

All rulers use a range of propaganda to project an image of power, but few showed such flair or such understanding of the importance of public opinion as Napoleon Bonaparte. Join Dr Alan Forrest, Emeritus Professor of Modern History at the University of York, for a fascinating insight into this important and relevant area of history.


Music and the Allure of Napoleon

4 March, 3.30

Music and the Allure of Napoleon

What did music mean for Napoleon and those living under his rule? Was it entertainment, escapism or propaganda? Join musicologist Dr Katherine Hambridge from Durham University, and musicians Mark Austin, Oskar McCarthy and Héloïse Werner, for a combined concert and talk exploring how music both supported and undermined the allure of the Napoleonic regime. Together, we will travel through the elegance of the salons, the spectacle of the opera, the irreverent boulevard theatres and the violence and enthusiasm of popular songs in a joyful afternoon of music and song. 

 


Napoleon Amongst the Shopkeepers: Jacques-Louis David and England

7 March, 2.30, Free with Admission

Napoleon Amongst the Shopkeepers: Jacques-Louis David and England

Join Dr. Simon Lee, Associate Professor of the History of Art at the University of Reading, for a look at the English reception of the painter Jacques-Louis David, especially his 1815 exhibition in London, which was open at the same time as Napoleon began his Hundred Days campaign, which ended in his defeat at Waterloo. This talk also explores the process of identifying David’s portrait of Napoleon from 1814, which was unrecognised for many decades. Booking required here.


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The Bowes Museum is closed!


Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Caf� Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

Do please remember, however, that the Museum�s park and grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 � 4.00 daily, and that we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, clues can be found here.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.