Sunday, December 13, 2009

Treasures of Napoleon

Ever think about a certain subject and suddenly, something comes up out of the blue regarding that subject? I was thinking about Napoleon a few weeks ago. There must have been a mention about him on tv or something. Then, I caught a Tweet about a Napoleon exhibit in my own back yard. Do I hear the Twilight Zone theme in the background??

Muzeo is a relatively new museum complex that opened about 2 years ago in Anaheim. It’s been on my list of things to do for a long time but when I found out that they were featuring Napoleon artifacts, I took that as a sign that it was time to go! I drove there this afternoon and parked in a two hour free parking structure across the street (Center St. Promenade) from the museum.

When I walked into the exhibit, it looked really small but the rooms meander around behind the entrance and it turned out to be quite a stretch of the legs. Lots of paintings, maps and illustrations adorn the walls. I didn’t realize that Napoleon’s foray into Egypt, with scientists, writers and artists, was the beginning of Europe’s fascination with all things Egyptian. Just to name a few of my favorite artifacts included in the exhibit: a monogram ring surrounded by diamonds, a piece of the draped fabric hanging in Notre Dame during his coronation (he’s responsible for returning the church back to its religious roots after years as a food storage facility), one of his hats (a summer version--he wore his hats with the points aligned with his shoulders so he could be distinguished from his officers, who wore their hats “fore and aft”). There were a lot of gilded leather folio’s, signed letters and even one of the last shirts he wore on St. Helena’s Island. A piece of his first coffin is one of the last things you’ll see. He was eventually reburied in Les Invalides in Paris.

I’m sorry I couldn’t take any pictures in the exhibit. I tried but the lighting was very subdued and I didn’t want to use the flash. But Museo also has another building of permanent exhibits, with an entire room dedicated to the history of Anaheim. There are also rooms with lovely sculpture and other fine arts. I loved this painting, called The Chariot of Swallows (this is an image from the net):

And I hope you don’t think this is too naughty but it kinda cracked me up. It’s part of a display of antique match boxes from the mid-1800’s. One had two topless women fencing but I thought that was a little too racy for this blog…

So, I had a lovely few hours immersing myself into the lore of Napoleon. He’s pretty fascinating and I’d like to read more about him. He’d been raised from the age of 9 as a military man and I think he didn’t know how to just be happy with what he had. Fighting and conquering was all he knew. Although he did make great contributions to the French by encouraging arts and industry, thereby strengthening the French economy. And one of his ancestors is the creator of what we now know as the FBI. I really do need to read up on him, as you can see.

If you’re in SoCal and can get to Muzeo before January 8, 2010, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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