Museums of the Mind – the Age of Napoleon

A wander through Apollo's archives
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The Apollo Museums of the Mind newsletter is an opportunity to wander through the magazine's archive, take some unexpected paths and make new finds. Every week, it has a different theme. This week: the Age of Napoleon. In the run-up to the release of Ridley Scott's film starring Joaquin Phoenix, we turn to depictions of the first Emperor of the French and consider his wider influence on the arts. During his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Revolutionary army, Napoleon was well aware of the need for self-promotion and visual propaganda – and fortunate enough that some of the greatest artists of the day were around to lend him legitimacy. This week, we look at the dashing sketches Antoine-Jean Gros made as he travelled with the Grande Armée – and the difficulty the artist had in getting its commander to sit still. We also consider Napoleon's penchant for urban planning and the architects who tried to fulfil his ambitions. As Emperor, Napoleon relied on the design duo of Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine to stage-manage his regime, beginning with his lavish coronation. (However, in exile in the South Atlantic, where he spent his final years, the deposed ruler came to regret the enormous sums he had spent on furniture.) We also visit the villa in Elba, where he plotted his unsuccessful comeback – and, finally, we eye up a curious tribute at Napoleon's tomb in Paris. We hope you enjoy this week's selection.
Battle lines
Battle lines
Michael Prodger on the tortured genius of Jean-Antoine Gros


Urban warfare
Urban warfare
Barry Bergdoll on what Napoleon really wanted from his architects


The man who created 'dictator' chic
The man who created 'dictator chic'
Tom Stammers on the grand decorative schemes of Charles Percier
Splendid isolation?
Splendid isolation?
'Able was I ere I saw Elba': Sophie Barling on Napoleon in exile

Horsing around
Horsing around
Laura O'Brien on the installation of a celebrity skeleton in Les Invalides

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