Small stature, big power

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - The story was writ­ten by Yao Ji­ay­ing.

The largest ex­hi­bi­tion of Napoléon Bon­a­parte ever dis­played in Shang­hai re­cently opened at the Shang­hai Hi­malayas Mu­seum. Co-cu­rated by Shen Qibin, chair­man of the board of di­rec­tors of Shang­hai Hi­malayas Mu­seum, and Bernard Che­val­lier, a global ex­pert on Bon­a­parte who once served as the cu­ra­tor of Château de Fon­tainebleau, the event will run through Fe­bru­ary of 2019.

This ex­hi­bi­tion cov­ers Bon­a­parte’s 52 years of life within five themed ar­eas, bring­ing to­gether 185 rare trea­sures in­clud­ing paint­ings and sculp­tures of Bon­a­parte, manuscripts, doc­u­ments, cloth­ing, or­na­ments, mil­i­tary ar­ti­cles and even fur­ni­ture. It also in­cor­po­rates the works of 11 con­tem­po­rary artists.

The first thing that comes into view at the mu­seum is a paint­ing of a sleep­ing lion. On the wall where this paint­ing hangs, it says “China is a sleep­ing gi­ant, let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.”

An­other paint­ing, named “Por­trait of the Em­peror Napoléon I in Coro­na­tion Cos­tume,” also placed at the front of the en­trance, shows Bon­a­parte wear­ing an an­cient Ro­man-style coro­na­tion dress from 1804, when he was first crowned em­peror.

The most rep­re­sen­ta­tive works about Bon­a­parte are five oil paint­ings of the em­peror sit­ting atop a horse. The se­ries is called “Napoléon Bon­a­parte Cross­ing the Alps by Great Saint Bernard Pass,” and cap­tures the en­ergy and ex­cite­ment of war.

The first draft of this se­ries is dis­played at the ex­hi­bi­tion. It was cre­ated in 1807 by Jac­ques-Louis David, a French neo­clas­si­cal painter, and Jean-Bap­tiste Mauzaisse, who worked in David’s work­shop. They are a de­pic­tion of Bon­a­parte’s mil­i­tary ca­reer but also demon­strate David’s tal­ent as a pro­pa­gan­dist for Bon­a­parte, who in fact crossed the moun­tains by mule.

The Napoléonic Code

Af­ter the es­tab­lish­ment of the First French Em­pire, Bon­a­parte pro­mul­gated the Napoléonic Code, which laid down the fu­ture so­cial or­der of Western cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries. The 1802 ver­sion of the Napoléonic Code also shows up in this ex­hi­bi­tion.

Por­traits and per­sonal be­long­ings of Bon­a­parte’s two wives, Em­press Joséphine and Em­press Marie Louies, are also on dis­play. In this ex­hi­bi­tion, Bon­a­parte is no longer just a fig­ure from his­tory text­books, but a real per­son with feel­ings who loved and was loved.

“This ex­hi­bi­tion al­lows us to travel back in time to around 200 years ago and across thou­sands of kilo­me­ters be­tween the dis­tance of China and France” Li Jian, the deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Cul­ture As­so­ci­a­tion, said dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony of the ex­hi­bi­tion on Fri­day.

In or­der to cre­ate a sense of time-travel, an eight-me­ter-long in­ter­ac­tive me­dia de­vice is lo­cated at the en­trance of the ex­hi­bi­tion, con­structed by a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary team over the course of 11 months. In the main show­room, an Arc de Tri­om­phe, built with 570,000 white Lego blocks by 30 artists and de­sign­ers, gives vis­i­tors ac­cess to the fol­low­ing halls. Mean­while, a Lego ex­pe­ri­ence area is open to the pub­lic in the show­room.

Vis­i­tors can also im­merse them­selves in the lav­ish­ness of Paris from two cen­turies ago. In­spired by Bon­a­parte’s re­la­tion­ship with Joséphine, a se­ries of im­mer­sive dec­o­ra­tions and scenes, such as a repli­cate of the chair Bon­a­parte sat in af­ter be­ing crowned em­peror, and scaled­down cathe­dral posts, are avail­able for selfie-tak­ing.

The ex­hi­bi­tion also in­cludes a di­a­logue among 12 con­tem­po­rary artists who share their per­spec­tives and opin­ions about Bon­a­parte as their sub­ject mat­ter. “We hope the relics will feel alive and build a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship be­tween France and China” said Shen Qibin.

A mu­si­cal show about Bon­a­parte and Xiang Yu (232BC–202BC), a mil­i­tary gen­eral in an­cient China, will be per­formed ev­ery night, al­low­ing peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate with gi­ants from both coun­tries.

Paul Freches, Cul­tural Con­sul at the Con­sulate Gen­eral of France in Shang­hai said, “This ex­hi­bi­tion is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the cul­tural ex­change be­tween China and France, and I’m sure it will cause a sen­sa­tion in Shang­hai.”

Pho­tos: Yao Ji­ay­ing

From top: A paint­ing named “Napoléon Bon­a­parte Cross­ing the Alps by Great Saint Bernard Pass” is dis­played at the ex­hi­bi­tion; A statue of Napoléon Bon­a­parte on dis­play; Vis­i­tors walk through an in­ter­ac­tive me­dia de­vice which cre­ates a sense of time-travel at the ex­hi­bi­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.