Napoléon et Paris: exhibition at the Musée Carnavalet

Napoléon et Paris at the Musée Carnavalet offers a glimpse at the steamy relationship between Napoleon and the city of Paris, presenting “Paris as seen by Napoleon and Napoleon as seen by Parisians”.

I would describe the exhibition as jam-packed and elegant, not two words I would usually use together. It feels like a well-crafted scrapbook: beautifully colored walls display carefully arranged objects and texts to explain historical events and anecdotes.

This exhibition is all about stories. Prints, paintings, statues, objects and texts weave together to illustrate and corroborate larger narratives. While the space is intimate, it feels like there are hundreds of tales being told. I greatly enjoyed taking my time and soaking in the storytelling.

This exhibition has five chapters, covering everything from the chronology of Napoleon’s time in Paris and life in his Parisian court, to Napoleon’s unrealized dreams for the city and his legacy. Some of my favorite stories included: Napoleon losing his virginity to a prostitute in Palais Royal, the comings and goings of the Napoleon statue on top of the column in Place Vendôme, and the would-be monumental elephant fountain at La Bastille.

 © Musée Carnavalet / Roger- Viollet

© Musée Carnavalet / Roger- Viollet

Napoleon is a larger-than-life figure who continues to capture the imaginations of Parisians today, myself included. I have a thing for the Emperor, perhaps rooting back to the three years I spent in a chambre de bonne on Rue Bonaparte.  This exhibition definitely provided fuel for my curiosity about Napoleon.

 © Stéphane Piera / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

© Stéphane Piera / Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Stéphane Maréchalle

© RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Stéphane Maréchalle


Napoléon et Paris at the Musée Carnavalet (until August 30, 2015)

Address16 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75003 Paris  ∣  MétroSaint Paul (line 1), Chemin-Vert (line 8), or Rambuteau (line 11) ∣ Opening hoursTuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm