Following Waterloo, Napoleon sought British protection. He expected to be allowed to go into exile in the English countryside--but this was not to be. On October 15, 1815, the former French Emperor arrived at the bleak, isolated island of St. Helena in the south Atlantic where in 1821 he died and was buried in a modest grave. By 1840 it was politically expedient for the tottering government of Louis Philippe to return Napoleon's body to Paris where it was placed in the church of the Hotel des Invalides. This event unleashed, in the words of one observer, "an inundation of...lithographs, engravings, and wood-cuts; of thousands of little objects such as the French know so well how to make. The shops and street carts were heaped with every conceivable article a la Napoleon." Several of these were brought back to Philadelphia at the time and are exhibited here.

Escutcheon French, c.1804
Ormolu
Gift of Lewis C. Scheffey, 1961

On December 2, 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) became Emperor of France. This ormolu escutcheon, bearing Napoleon's coat of arms with the Imperial eagle, decorated the carriage which conveyed him to Notre Dame. Surrounding the eagle shield is the collar and badge of the Legion of Honor, an order founded by Napoleon in 1802 which is still the most highly prized decoration in France.

According to documentation accompanying the escutcheon, it was purchased in Paris in 1825 by the firm of Bridge & Rundell, silversmiths and jewelers of London. The escutcheon was later brought to the United States where it was owned by several collectors before being presented to the Athenĉum by Mr. Scheffey in 1961.

Miniature portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte; signed Reney

Oil on ivory, mid-19th century
Gift in memory of Gustavus Plantou Middleton, 1987

Bas-relief profile of Napoleon, signed Jerome

Ivory, early 20th century
Gift of Mrs. John Gilbert, 1960

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Portrait Bust of Napoleon Bonaparte

after Antoine-Denis Chaudet
Carrara Marble, c. 1807-09
Gift of Frances Sabena & Mary Elizabeth Fernley, 1979

Bust of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) after Antoine-Denis Chaudet's 1799 modeling. 1,200 versions of this official bust--Napoleon's favorite--were carved at Carrara, Italy.

 

Miniature portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte; signed Plantou

Oil on ivory, mid-19th century
Gift in memory of Gustavus Plantou Middleton, 1987

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Bas-relief figure of Napoleon Bonaparte

Wax, mid-to-late 19th century
Gift of Mrs. John Gilbert, 1960

 

 

Portrait bust of Napoleon Bonaparte; signed A. Cifriani

Marble, mid-to-late 19th century
Gift of Mrs. John Gilbert, 1960

 

Statuette of Napoleon Bonaparte

Cast bronze, marble; mid-to-late 19th century
Gift of Samuel J. Dornsife, 1975

 

 

In 1810 Napoleon erected in the Place Vendome a replica of Trajan's Column to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz; it was cast from 1,200 captured Austrian and Russian bronze cannon. The heroic figure atop the 132 foot column represented the French Emperor as sculpted by Antonine-Denis Chaudet [see marble portrait bust]. In 1814 this figure was replaced by a large fleur-de-lis flag, but in 1833 Louis Philippe returned the statue of Napoleon.

Miniature of the Place Vendome column

Cast bronze, marble; mid-19th century
Gift of Mary Wood Wiltse, 1960

 

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Commemorative Medal, reinstallation of the Napoleon statue

Nicolas Guy Antoine Brenet (1770-1846)
Bronze, 1833

 

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When Napoleon died at St. Helena on May 5, 1821, his doctors--Burton and Antommarchi--made a gypsum cast of his head. With the rehabilitation of the former French Emperor's reputation in the 1830s, Dr. Antommarchi produced plaster and bronze copies from the original death mask mold which he sold by subscription. Dr. Antommarchi later emigrated to Cuba where he met the young Philadelphia-born physician Richard Wilson to whom one of the plaster subscription masks was given. Dr. Wilson's son brought the mask to Philadelphia in the late 19th century and it descended through the Wilson family.

Death Mask of Napoleon

Francis Burton and Francesco Antommarchi
Cast plaster, c. 1833-35
Permanent loan from the descendants of
Augustus Wilson of Santiago de Cuba

 

Napoleon's residence on St. Helena was a renovated stone house known as "Longwood." The illustrations reproduced here were intentionally idealized to defuse critics of the former Emperor's imprisonment. They are from a rare pamphlet in the Athenĉum's collection by Theodore E. Hook, Facts Illustrative of the Treatment of Napoleon Bonaparte in Saint Helena (London, 1819). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Seymour, 1973.

Joseph Heaviside Clark (1770-1863), also known as "Waterloo" Clark

"Longwood House from the Flower Garden," London, W. Stockdale, 1819

"Longwood House from the Road to Dedwood," London, W. Stockdale, 1819

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Napoleon departing for St. Helena, 1815

Adolphe-Irenee Guillon (1829-1896)
Oil on paper, late-19th century
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. R. Steven Uzzell, 1973

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Paperweight of stone used at the Invalides

Finnish porphyry and ivory, mid-19th century
Purchased in Paris in the 1840s by Mary Middleton
Gift of Mrs. Edward M. Cheston, 1976

 

Inkwell in the form of the Invalides sarcophagus

Brass, c. 1850
Gift of Mrs. John Gilbert, 1960

Copyright 2008 The Athenaeum of Philadelphia