To mark the upcoming bicentenary (5 May 2021) of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Palace of Versailles is exhibiting a set of portraits of the imperial family, taken from its own collections, in Madame de Maintenon’s apartments, from 9 July.
With An imperial air, to be presented in Madame de Maintenon’s apartments from 9 July, the Palace of Versailles seeks to tell “the story of a family” through the portraiture codes in place under Napoleon I. Some 20 works – full-length paintings and marble busts from the Palace of Versailles’ Napoleonic collection (the world’s largest) – depict the early days of the Bonapartes in Corsica and France, right up to their accession to the thrones of Europe, taking in the establishment of the French Empire and the ambition to create a fourth dynasty to succeed the Bourbons.
Napoleon Bonaparte was quick to understand the power of the image – and of the portrait in particular – and, from the time of his first Italian campaign and the portrait of him at the Pont d’Arcole, he regularly had himself depicted in the pose, attire and with the accoutrements of the situation. His portraits were disseminated widely across France and the whole of Europe in the form of replicas, copies and engravings. His mother and siblings, who helped him seize power and establish the French Empire, also benefited from the talent of the greatest portrait artists of the time, including François Gérard, Anne-Louis Girodet and Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.
Most of the portraits featured have been restored in recent years and almost all of them are official works, used to decorate the imperial residences in Paris, the Tuileries Palace and the palaces of Saint-Cloud, Fontainebleau, Compiègne, etc. They will be on display here for a number of months before being placed back in the Chimay and South Attics.
Practical information and tickets
The exhibition may be visited as part of the Palace tour route during normal opening hours.
In order to welcome visitors in the best conditions, precautions and measures are taken: visitors of the museum shall wear a mask and timed entry tickets are mandatory for the Palace. Discover all the visiting measures.