Sir John Soane’s fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte

Sir John Soane’s fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte

This event has finished Took place on: Tuesday, 4th May 2021

 £5

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This is an online video event, please check the organiser for details about how to watch.

To coincide with the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death, this lecture will review Sir John Soane’s interest in Napoleon Bonaparte.

A select but significant collection of Napoleonica at Sir John Soane’s Museum is described within a dedicated portion of Soane’s 1832 guidebook, Description of the House and Museum... The most notable examples can be seen in Soane’s Breakfast Room, where a density of such items forms a shrine of sorts. And Soane collected an array of other items related to Napoleon, including commemorative bronze medals, and up to fifty books.

But what can explain Soane’s interest in Napoleon?

At first sight it appears so heavily at odds with his position as an architect to the English establishment. Soane had worked for the majority of William Pitt’s political circle and was Architect to the Bank of England and the Palace of Westminster. Napoleon may have been painted by the British press as the bogeyman of Europe, but Soane was capable of greater subtlety. As a self-made man, Soane appreciated Napoleon’s rise from a lowly Lieutenant to a mighty Emperor. Furthermore, he admired Napoleon’s efforts to improve the architectural and cultural fabric of Paris, which he visited as soon as peace allowed in 1814. To Soane, the Musée Napoleon (now known as the Louvre) highlighted the paucity of public collections in Britain. There is an argument to be made that the horror vacui within the Louvre formed an inspiration to Soane’s collection, far more than any extant British institution. Moreover, we must consider Napoleon’s improvements in Parisian town planning, particularly the axis connecting the Place de la Concorde, along the Champs Élysée to the Arc de Triomphe. By comparison, London was a piecemeal jumble. Soane did not particularly imitate the minutiae of Republican French neo-classical architecture, but he did emulate Napoleon’s Parisian cityscape, when in 1827-28 he proposed a grand processional route through London. This would have connected Windsor Castle and Westminster Palace, via a new Royal palace and two triumphal arches, and was intended to provide a processional route for the Monarch’s annual opening of Parliament. Although Soane’s scheme never came to fruition, it would have transformed a large swath of the capital into an urban paradise to rival Napoleon’s Paris.


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This event has finished Took place on: Tuesday, 4th May 2021

 £5

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2021-05-04 2021-05-04 Europe/London Sir John Soane’s fascination with Napoleon Bonaparte To coincide with the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death, this lecture will review Sir John Soane’s interest in Napoleon Bonaparte. https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/calendar/2021/05/04/sir-john-soanes-fascination-with-napoleon-bonaparte-255073 ,,,

This is an online video event, please check the organiser for details about how to watch.

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