ASTANA – Residents and guests of Astana have the opportunity to get acquainted with the life of French statesman, military leader and emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte at an exhibition, which was opened on Dec. 19 in the Palace of Independence by the Akim (Mayor) of Astana, Imangali Tasmagambetov. The exhibition called “Napoleon: Life and Legend” is special and symbolic – it is the final event of the “Season of France in Kazakhstan”.
“Astana residents and guests will get a very rare firsthand opportunity to see it [the exhibition]. We are deeply convinced that this exhibition, which is being presented in one of the best showrooms in Astana, will evoke great interest in the residents and visitors of our city. However, the most important thing is that it actually makes a great contribution to the further rapprochement of our peoples and adequately completes the Year of France in Kazakhstan,” Tasmagambetov said while opening the exhibition.
The exposition is divided into nine sections: Born in Ajaccio; An Officer of the Royal Army; The French Revolution; Napoleon Bonaparte, The General of the Revolution; Head of State, Peacemaker and reformer; The Imperial Family; Commander; Exile and Death; and Birth of a Legend. Each of these sections tells about the spirit and the times in which Napoleon lived.
The exhibition features about 300 pieces, including works of art, personal belongings of the emperor and his family, papers, military attributes, manuscripts and furniture from the Napoleonic era that show the stormy creative, scientific and political life of France at that time, as well as the major changes in civil society under Napoleon’s leadership. There is a special exhibit centred around the dress which Mrs. Beranger, the wife of state councilor Jean Beranger, wore on the day of Napoleon’s coronation in 1804. It is also possible to see rare personal documents belonging to the emperor, in particular, Napoleon’s baptismal certificate, dated July 21, 1771.
“All these things personally belonged to Napoleon, he held them in his hands and he used them in his daily life. Napoleon was not only a legendary figure, but a common person as well,” said Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Kazakhstan Francis Etienne.
“A collection of 300 pieces was gathered from museums such as the Napoleon Foundation, Versailles, Fontainebleau and the Napoleon Museum, which is located at Malmaison in the house where he lived with Josephine. We are pleased that the exhibition has come to Astana,” said the exhibition’s curator, Director of the Napoleon Foundation, Thierry Lentz.
Lentz, co-curator Pierre Branda, scenography experts Pascal Rodriguez and Dina Baitassova were involved in organising the exhibit. Organisers divided exhibits by period of Napoleon’s life. There is also an excerpt from his work “Clisson and Eugenie” which was written by Bonaparte when he was young. He crafted the piece in the spirit of the Enlightenment. At that time, the future emperor dreamed of becoming a writer and later tried to rid himself of all of his novels and short stories.
The guillotine demonstrated at the exhibition is symbolic of the French Revolution, which in the penal code adopted during Napoleonic rule, was the main instrument of execution.
Bonaparte’s coronation in Notre Dame is depicted in detail by painter Jacques-Louis David in 1804. The reform achievements of the emperor are reflected in the work of Jean-Baptiste and in copies of the civil code, which united the nation.
Legendary military victories and defeats, his exile to Saint Helena and death on May 5, 1821 are captured in famous paintings. But before that, he managed to dictate his memoirs, which became the accepted historical narrative of the Bonaparte epoch.
The exhibition will last until Feb. 23 and is free of charge.
The exhibition was organised by the Association of National Museums and the Grand Palace, as well as Napoleon’s Foundation upon the initiative of the Embassy of France in Kazakhstan and with the support of the Astana Akimat.