The ancient model constantly prevails with Napoleon, but what is its source? The fashion of Neoclassicism after the discoveries of Herculaneum and Pompeii? The model of the Republic, then of the Roman Empire? The "Roman" culture of the Bonapartes (and of the Corsican elites of the late 18th century)? The resurrection of the imperial dignity?
In any case, the reference to Antiquity was permanent for the Bonapartes and appeared in many different forms (fine arts, architecture, painting, sculpture and decorative arts), literary references and political discourse. To fuel this discourse, Napoleon made Rome the second capital of the French Empire, wore a crown of golden laurels, and reignited the old quarrel between Louis XIV, the Pope and Alexander VII for European primacy. He himself, Caroline, Joseph, Lucien and Elisa will encourage excavations on the territories for which they are responsible, and valorize their discoveries, in particular by publishing magnificent works on the ancient monuments. They continue a tradition carried on by the kings of France during the Renaissance and the classical period, by the Bourbons of Naples, but also by the popes, the cardinals and the Roman princes... But no one had given such a magnitude to the valorization of this past in the construction of a new language in which Vivant Denon and Camille de Tournon, the Prefect of Rome, were also going to participate.
The exceptional collection of the Municipal Library of Ajaccio, constituted by Cardinal Fesch and Lucien Bonaparte, bears witness to these symbolic, cultural and political stakes. The exhibition will be built from its collections.
Curator: Jean-Marc Olivesi