Napoleon - An Intimate Portrait

A Message from the Collector

Napoléon Bonaparte - I heard that name for the first time when I was 8 years old. Now, almost 30 years later, the Emperor of the French is a daily part of my life.

It is an honor to share with you one of the largest private collections of Napoléon memorabilia in the world. Assembling it has been my privilege and my passion.

Why, though, has this figure from history held my complete interest all these years? In fact, it is the very contemporary nature of who he was that I find so enthralling. I see him as the first “modern” European leader - a truly “self-made” man, who rose to the seat of power without the aid of the royal lineage that had been required in France and across the continent for hundreds of years.

It is all the more fitting that we have premiered this exhibition in Washington, DC, the capital city of a nation that celebrates a person’s ability to rise to leadership on the basis of his or her own ability and drive. Napoléon admired America and gave thought to making it his home after his fall.

The pieces in the exhibition have been selected not only for their great beauty and rarity, but also because they allow us to see into the heart of this extraordinary man. While a giant of history in the model of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Charlemagne, he was also very human. He had great loves and was driven by his dreams for a better world, but was, at times, blind to the betrayal of others and the victim of his own flawed vision.

With over 250 items, many his own personal effects and treasures he gave to others, you will chart the course of his life – 52 years that changed the world. I believe no collection has ever been so close to the man.

May Napoléon Bonaparte fascinate you as much as he has fascinated me all these years.

Pierre-Jean Chalençon
Cercle France-Napoléon

Images © Chalençon
A Traveling Exhibition from Russell Etling Company (c) 2011