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National Gallery of Victoria announce Napoleon Revolution to Empire

The National Gallery of Victoria presents Napoleon Revolution to Empire. Melbourne Winter Masterpieces 2012 an exhibition on view 02 JUN 2012 – 07 OCT 2012.

Jacques Louis DAVID French 1748-1825 Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul, crossing the Alps at Great St. Bernard Pass, 20 May, 1800 1803 oil on canvas 267.5 x 223.0 cm Versailles, musée national du château (MV8550) © RMN (Château de Versailles) / Franck Raux

Napoleon: Revolution to Empire is a panoramic exhibition examining French art, culture and life from the 1770s to the 1820s. Its story runs from the first French voyages of discovery to Australia during the reign of Louis XV to the end of Napoleon’s transforming leadership as first Emperor of France.

The exhibition brings to life the stormy period of social change ushered into France with the outbreak of the French Revolution, the execution of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and the rise to power of the young Napoleon Bonaparte and his new wife Joséphine. Cementing their place as France’s new political and social leaders, who sought to restore stability to their troubled nation, Napoleon and Joséphine became great patrons of the arts, sciences and literature. Believing the advancement of knowledge to be integral to social order, they welcomed scientists and artists to receptions and dinners where world affairs were reshaped under their rule.

A dazzling couple, leaders of Europe in the Age of Exploration who defined taste for a new century, Napoleon and Joséphine were fascinated by Australia. This newly discovered continent, the southern part of which had been named Terre Napoléon or Napoleon-land by French navigators, filled Joséphine’s hothouses with dozens of exotic new plants and flowers, as well as furnishing her and Napoleon with a private menagerie of kangaroos, emus and black swans.

As well as telling the remarkable story of France’s close involvement with Australia in the early 1800s, Napoleon: Revolution to Empire brings to Australia for the first time hundreds of objects of breathtaking opulence and luxury – paintings, drawings, engravings, sculpture, furniture, textiles, porcelain, glass, gold and silver, fashion, jewellery and armour. Organised in partnership with the Fondation Napoléon, who are lending many of their greatest works, the exhibition also features incomparable treasures drawn from Europe’s most important Revolutionary and Napoleonic collections, including the Château de Malmaison, Château de Versailles, Musée Carnavalet and Musée de l’Armée in France, the Napoleonmuseum Thurgau in Switzerland, and the Museo Napoleonico in Rome.

Exhibition organised with Fondation Napoléon, Paris. Co-curator: Karine Huguenaud, Chargée des Collections, Fondation Napoléon –

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