Delaroche, Napoleon and English collectors.
There are three reasons why Paul Delaroche's portraits of Napoleon possess a special interest. The first, and the main pretext for this article, is that versions of all of them passed through the hands of English patrons at an early stage. The debate over the dating and consequent priority of some of these versions is still very much an open one. Delaroche was for a decade or so in the mid-nineteenth century perhaps the most famous (and consequently the most collected) painter of the day, attracting patrons throughout Europe and beyond. The fact that he was closely allied with one of the most enterprising dealers of the period, the Maison Goupil, and so helped to fuel their trade in 'repetitions' and 'reductions' of his major works, has made it extremely difficult in some cases to identify the 'original'. However there can be no ambiguities in the history of the first portrait of all (Fig. 2). This was commissioned by an Anglo-Irish peeress, the dowager Countess of Sandwich, in circumstances to be explained.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
The second point to be recalled is that these images of Napoleon rapidly achieved an unusual status. Although the first was completed over twenty years after the Emperor left Europe for good, they were gradually admitted among the canonical portraits painted during his lifetime by such artists as David and Ingres. The lingering effects of this assimilation are still apparent today, when newspapers often choose agency reproductions of Delaroche's works for a generic image of the Emperor to illustrate a review or article. (1) In the nineteenth century, however, the apparent veracity of the portraits was attested by people who had seen Napoleon in his prime. The 6th Duke of Portland wrote of the oval version of Napoleon at Fontainebleau owned by his family that it had mightily impressed the Duc de Coigny when he saw it for the first time: he had asserted that 'he never saw such a likeness, that it is the Emperor himself! ... he almost screamed when he saw Napoleon'. (2) Coigny was a member of the old military aristocracy, born in 1788, who had remained in France throughout the revolution and joined the imperial army in 1805. In the emperor's service for ten years, and a survivor of the Russian campaign, he would have had ample opportunity to observe him.
This was not the case with Delaroche himself, who was born in 1797 and so barely adult by the time of Waterloo. Yet his nineteenth-century patrons could not relinquish the idea that he must at some point have set eyes on his mighty model. Again, the Duke of Portland allowed that 'there is no proof that the Emperor ever sat to this painter', but averred: 'it is certain that he visited the studio of Baron Gros when Delaroche was a pupil there'. (3) In fact, nothing could be less certain. Delaroche did indeed enter the studio of Gros, and was listed as his pupil by early 1817. But by that stage Napoleon had long ago departed for St Helena. A slightly more plausible version of the encounter was floated as early as 1842 in the Illustrated London News, when an engraving of the Sandwich portrait had recently been published in London. This claims that: 'The head of this portrait was painted by De La Roche during the hundred days, and finished by him afterwards, by desire of the Buonaparte family'. (4) There is no particular reason why the youthful Delaroche should not have been on the alert with his sketch-book and paint brush in 1815. Yet the tale is unsupported by other evidence, and should perhaps be regarded as a response to the portrait's lively effect, rather than a guide to its genesis.
What the same article demonstrates, all the same, is the contemporary opinion that this comparative latecomer had wiped out all its competitors. 'The portrait of Napoleon is an identity of the man in person and character. De la Roche has read his subject more accurately than any of the artists of all nations, even with Canova at their head, who have given to the world their various semblances of this extraordinary man.' (5) Such a comment invites scepticism nowadays. How many of the now well-known contemporary portraits of Napoleon could the writer have seen, when even the Sandwich painting had to be discussed by way of Aristide Louis's reproductive print, and the rather botched wood engraving after the print that the Illustrated London News had commissioned to accompany their article? Yet the point could, and surely should, be turned around. The galvanising effect of Delaroche's image was evidently not dependent on the sight of an 'original' work, but also communicated itself through copies of copies. Whether autograph or not, its 'aura' was eminently transferable. (6)
This leads to the third significant point about Delaroche's Napoleon series, which seems a little at odds with such themes of aristocratic patronage and illusionistic portraiture. This sequence of four works, which was launched in 1838 and concluded with an unfinished project left on the studio wall at Delaroche's death in 1856, also refers in an integral way to the developments in his personal life over these years. It is not clear quite how soon it was recognised that his portraits of Napoleon closely resembled the authorised image of Delaroche himself. Again, the well informed Illustrated London News thought this similarity worth underlining in a fervent article on his life and work published after his death in 1856. Commenting on the style of dress that Delaroche adopted in later life, the columnist added: 'The mention of the little grey coat reminds us of the partial likeness of him who wore it to Napoleon Bonaparte; the lock of hair ostentatiously curling in front aiding somewhat the allusion'. As this article was illustrated by a large wood engraving after a second reproductive print by Aristide Louis, the reference was made abundantly clear. This image of Delaroche, with the tell-tale lock of hair, derives from what must qualify as his only self-portrait (Fig. 1)--a charcoal drawing with estompe and sanguine, signed and dated 1838--the self-same year as he first painted Napoleon.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Napoleon in his Study (1838) thus stands out in this series of portraits for a range of reasons (Fig. 2). It was commissioned by the Countess of Sandwich, a remarkable woman, whose wide experience of the artistic milieus of London, Paris and Rome was surely unsupassed in the period. An entry in her diary for April 1838 records the payment of 6,000 francs to 'Paul Delaroche', and 350 francs for the picture frame. (8) The painting itself did not subsequently spawn any of the painted repetitions and reductions that complicate the pedigree of Delaroche's later works. But it became very well-known as a result of the 1842 engraving by Aristide Louis, supposedly the first print to obtain a copyright simultaneously in Paris and London. (9) It was also shown at the 1857 retrospective exhibition of Delaroche's works at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and was photographed by Robert Bingham for the catalogue raisonne published in 1858. On this occasion, Lady Sandwich provided a helpful account of the work's genesis that was printed as an 'inscription' in the catalogue. (10) The painting may well have been displayed in her Paris residence up to and after the date of the exhibition. After her death in 1862, it passed to her descendants, with whom it remained until late in the twentieth century.
Despite this clear profile, it is worth speculating further about the circumstances of the commission. Louisa, Countess of Sandwich, was widowed, and left with three children, after ten years of marriage when her husband, the 6th Earl, died in 1814. Her wealth enabled her to acquire works of art in Rome, where she commissioned a portrait bust of herself from Thorvaldsen for delivery in 1817. (11) She did not neglect English artists, as is attested by her correspondence with George Hayter, who was painting portraits of several members of her family (as well as a study of the Duke of Wellington) for her around 1845. (12) In the commission to Delaroche, both historical and familial aspects were closely intertwined. Lady Sandwich's elder daughter, Catherine Caroline, had married Count Alexander Walewski (Napoleon's illegitimate son by a Polish countess) in 1831. Although her daughter died tragically young in 1834, the close connection with her son-in-law was maintained--poor Hayter confessed in 1845 that 'the Count Walewski has never given me an opportunity of completing his portrait' for her collection! (13) This link with Walewski may partially explain the rumour (reported in the Illustrated London News) that the portrait of Napoleon was completed 'by desire of the Buonoparte family', although it is unlikely that such considerations alone determined Lady Sandwich's commission. (14) Apart from his imperial connections, Walewski's Polish nationality may have facilitated the meeting between Delaroche and Lady Sandwich. She took a lively interest in the welfare of the Polish community in Paris, especially after 1830, when the aggressive policies of Russia resulted in a flood of liberal and aristocratic exiles emigrating to France. (15) Delaroche was personally connected with Polish emigre circles, and visited their unofficial leader, Prince Adam Czartoryski, when he was established in the Hotel St-Lambert in the mid-1830s.
It is also useful to place Lady Sandwich's commission in the context of her English contacts, and the patterns of collecting that were already developing around Delaroche's work. Her diaries for 1836-37 record several meetings in London with the Duke of Sutherland and his brother Lord Francis Egerton (later the Earl of Ellesmere), and a visit on 16 June 1837 to the Bridgwater Gallery, where the fabulous picture collections of the family were on exhibition. As she was also in Paris in June, she might have seen the two major paintings by Delaroche bought by the two brothers, which had been on show at the Salon: Stratford (1836) and Charles I Insulted by the Soldiers of Cromwell (1836). This is not to imply that her taste for Delaroche's work was aroused by her English friends. Indeed the influence, if there was one, may well have travelled in the other direction. But it does suggest that Lady Sandwich's commission reflected a general inclination on the part of wealthy English collectors to interest themselves in Delaroche's work.
No record (that I am aware of) exists for the payments made to Delaroche by Sutherland and Egerton. But there is a full dossier of his transactions with another important patron from those years, the Polish count Athanasius Raczynski. Delaroche asked Raczynski for the considerable sum of 15,000 francs for his specially commissioned Pilgrims at Rome. Given the relative proportions of the two works--164 x 205 cm for Pilgrims and 117 x 90 cm for Napoleon--the latter seems to have been exactly priced at 6,000 francs.
With Delaroche's second and third Napoleon portraits, we enter a very different territory. Both Napoleon at Fontainebleau, 31 March 1814 and Napoleon crossing the Alps (in French, Le General Bonaparte franchissant les Alpes) exist in several versions, including both repetitions and reductions. The commission for Napoleon in his Study had been a simple transaction between artist and patron, though Goupil in Paris and Graves in London marketed the print. Yet, from the mid-1840s, there was a significant shift in Goupil's commercial operations. The firm began by marketing the drawings and small-scale paintings prepared for the use of engravers, which were in Delaroche's case often produced by favoured pupils (sometimes indeed those who also engraved them). It later fostered the production of copies by younger painters after celebrated gallery artists such as Delaroche, and assiduously sought out orders for repetitions, reductions and variant versions, not necessarily by the artists themselves. (16) There can be no doubt that this policy was in part a response to the changing conditions of patronage in France over these years. Delaroche himself had been deeply shaken by the fall of July Monarchy in 1848, not only for the sake of his own career but because he feared for the future of the many young painters whom he had trained in his studio. Goupil's international outreach, and ability to secure purchasers for these additional versions of important works, were precious assets from Delaroche's point of view. Yet the fine distinctions between degrees of closeness to the initiator were apt to be forgotten in the saleroom, if not before. The difficulties of attribution resulting from these new practices are even now far from being resolved.
It is in the midst of this minefield that we encounter the figure of Delaroche's second and most eager English patron, the Liverpool banker John Naylor. It would be inexact to categorise Naylor simply as a bourgeois collector, compared with the aristocratic Countess of Sandwich. Born in Liverpool in 1813, he was in fact educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1851, after he had amassed a large fortune as a partner in the Liverpool banking firm of Leyland and Bullin, he built a substantial gothic country house, Leighton Hall, on his estate near Welshpool, and proceeded to restock his picture gallery. His collection already included major British paintings, and it was supplemented by two works by Delaroche, which, after several vicissitudes, have found their way into national collections in Paris: Napoleon at Fontainebleau in the Musee de l'Armee (Fig. 3), and Napoleon crossing the Alps in the Louvre (Fig. 5). What can be said unequivocally about Naylor's patronage of Delaroche, however, is that he did not deal directly with the artist. He purchased the former painting through Goupil, and the latter (through channels that are unclear) from an original owner in the USA.
[FIGURES 3 & 5 OMITTED]
The other noteworthy feature of Naylor's collection is that it was once, in dramatic circumstances, almost given up for lost. On 24 November 1854, his finest works were returning to Welshpool from Liverpool, where they had graced the opening ceremony of St George's Hall, when the carriage transporting them was involved in an accident with a train at a level crossing. Reports in the press naturally focused on the presence in the group of a highly important--and indeed notorious--painting by a native artist: John Martin's 'celebrated picture of "Belshazzar's Feast"', as the Athenaeum described it. (17) First indications of damage suggested that, in this case, 'all chance of successful restoration [was] hopeless'. (18) Yet this total write-off was ultimately resurrected, and the Martin reappeared at the London International Exhibition of 1862, where its state of repair not surprisingly excited unfavourable comment. (19) It is impossible to be sure quite how much damage the two paintings by Delaroche suffered in the accident. Naylor at any rate determined that he had lost the equivalent of 12,000 [pounds sterling] out of a total investment of 20,000 [pounds sterling] as a result. (20) At the very least, it appears that restoration of a major kind was necessary for several, if not all, of the paintings.
This incident may be significant in resolving the date when Naylor's Napoleon at Fontainebleau was executed. The painting now in the Musee de l'Armee in Paris is clearly inscribed with the date 1840. Yet all the other evidence, not all of it circumstantial, points to a later date. No one in fact claims that Naylor could have bought the work in the early 1840s. Yet if he did not do so, who owned it before it reached Naylor in the early 1850s? Is it conceivable that Delaroche would have produced such a work in 1840, when the demand for his services was approaching its peak--and then entirely concealed it from view? The details of the commissions from Count Raczynski and Lady Sandwich indicate that he was seriously behind hand throughout these years. The Pilgrims at Rome was commissioned in 1836, yet it was only in late 1837, when he had presumably almost completed Napoleon in his Study, that he began the new work, and only in 1842 that he finished it. (21) The reason for the final delay was no doubt the need to put the final touches to his massive Hemicycle de l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, inaugurated in July 1841. How could Napoleon at Fontainebleau have fitted into this timetable?
Some relevant evidence exists in the form of a letter sent by Delaroche to Heinrich Adolf Schletter, a Leipzig merchant, and dated 28 January 1852. Here Delaroche attests that the version dated 1845 that Schletter has purchased is the sole original, and that the work currently in the possession of Goupil is a copy of it. (22) Finally, the most unequivocal proof to complete the dossier can be found in the account books of the Maison Goupil, now held in the Getty Special Collections. Pages 40 and 46 record the despatch of two works by Delaroche to 'Grundy, Liverpool': first of all, on 27 April 1852, 'Napoleon a Fontainebleau 31 Mars 1814', described as a 'peinture repetition', and secondly, on 18 August 1852, 'Les Enfans d'Edouard 2eme Tableau', which was a unique variant on the theme of Delaroche's famous Princes in the Tower shown at the 1831 Salon. (23) Grundy was a leading Manchester picture dealer, evidently acting on behalf of Naylor. Since, as has always been known, Naylor possessed the variant Princes in the Tower, it can surely be concluded that the Napoleon at Fontainebleau repetition was destined for the same client, and hence is the work presently in the Musee de l'Armee. Leipzig's claim to have the 'original', dated 1845, should be upheld. But Paris--it should be noted--has a repetition painted by Delaroche himself, for which Grundy paid the very substantial sum of 18,000 francs. (24)
An even more embroiled situation exists with the two versions of Napoleon Crossing the Alps, which were both in English collections from the early 1850s. Yet here the matter has been substantially clarified in a detailed article written shortly after the Naylor version was donated to the Louvre in 1982. Building upon (but also correcting) the earlier work of Edward Morris, Elisabeth Foucart-Walter has analysed a mass of visual evidence and concluded that the Naylor version, dated 1848 and already in the USA by 1850, was the first to be completed (Fig. 5). (25) There is little that needs amending in this article except to protest that it largely obliterates the role of the first owner of the Liverpool version (Fig. 6), Arthur George, 3rd Earl of Onslow. This ebullient gentleman deserves further mention.
[FIGURE 6 OMITTED]
Onslow's account of his exchange with Delaroche, recorded in a family history compiled by the 5th Earl, describes how '[w]alking with Delaroche in the Louvre he pointed out the absurdity, or at least the neglect of realism, in David's dramatic picture of Napoleon crossing the Alps. It would have been so very different: a cold grey huddled figure on a drenched and weary horse, led forward very slowly by an Alpine guide.' (26) According to this account, Onslow then challenged Delaroche: 'I want you to paint me a picture showing as nearly as possible the exact scene'. (27) With regard to this anecdote, one might reasonably suspect that history was being read backwards, and the imposing picture hanging at Clandon Park had generated its own mythology among family members. Foucart-Walter emphasises that David's painting, extant in several versions, never hung in the Louvre during this period. It is merely a quibble to respond that the detail of the setting is anyhow dispensable; there were other locations in or near Paris where a sighting might have been possible.
On a different level, the point has been employed to avert any serious treatment of the link between Onslow and Delaroche. Yet the connection is highly plausible. The Earl's cousin Georges Onslow--from a branch of the family that settled in France before the revolution--was a noted composer who had replaced Cherubini as a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in 1842. It is more than likely that Delaroche, who took his collegial responsibilities in the academy very seriously, would have had some contact with the Onslow family.
A further point may be made. As suggested earlier, the period around 1848 was precisely the time at which Delaroche began to change his patterns of work in response to the crisis of state patronage accompanying the fall of the July Monarchy. In fact, he quickly adapted to the new commercial strategy being pursued by Goupil. In such circumstances, it would be understandable if he forged ahead with a version of the new Napoleonic subject to be sent, via Goupil, to the United States, while reserving the project of a commission based on earlier, person-to-person contact. In all events, it is clear from comparison of the two works that he did not intend them to have the direct relationship of 'original' and 'repetition' (as with Napoleon at Fontainebleau). The two works are certainly not so discrepant as to invite the concept of the '2eme tableau' applied by Goupil to Naylor's Princes in the Tower. But they do seem to be designedly variant, especially where the Alpine setting is concerned. What is more, in the Onslow picture, the figures following Napoleon achieve much clearer definition. We notice tricolore plumes that Delaroche could have borrowed from a miniscule soldier in David's painting.
As the last in this sequence of the English patrons of Delaroche, the purchases of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were small-scale works, intended for the domestic setting of their life at Osborne House. Two of the works that they acquired were bought as reductions of the previously mentioned Napoleon at Fontainebleau and Napoleon Crossing the Alps. (Figs. 4 and 7) A third, acquired originally by Goupil from the studio sale in 1857, was the sketch for Delaroche's last, unfinished project (Fig. 8). (28) Yet these acquisitions prove far from insignificant in relation to Delaroche's career. Napoleon at Fontainebleau had been painted in 1845, and reflected the deep despondency that he felt as a result of the illness and death of his wife in the same year. News of the royal purchase of the reduction was received whilst he was sitting out the revolution of 1848 at Le Havre with his two young sons, and considering whether his future lay away from France. Goupil forwarded his letter of appreciation to Queen Victoria, and it was fixed on the back of the picture. (29)
[FIGURES 4, 7 & 8 OMITTED]
The acquisition of Napoleon at St Helena ten years later, as a present from the Prince Consort to the Queen, was their most enterprising venture. In this case, the oil sketch was destined to survive as the prime evidence for the projected composition incorporating the massive, brooding figure of the exiled Emperor, designed for a canvas of enormous dimensions. The large wall drawing for the same work, photographed by Bingham in Delaroche's studio for Godde's catalogue, was later destroyed. So it was from this sketch in the Royal Collection that the later print by C.W. Sharpe was engraved. Here is Delaroche's final, darkest meditation on the Napoleonic legend, interfused with thoughts of his own sickness and impending death.
(1) See, for example, John Lichfield's article, 'Who killed Napoleon', The Independent, 28 June 2001, Thursday Review, p. 1, which carries a half-page colour detail from Napoleon at Fontainebleau; and Philip Ziegler's review of books on Napoleon and Wellington, which juxtaposes Napoleon in his study with Lawrence's Duke of Wellington (The Daily Telegraph, 1 September 2001, A3).
(2) The report comes in a letter from Lady Jane Dalrymple-Hamilton, a connection of Coigny's wife, who had been lent the picture. See William Bentinck, Men, Women and Things. Memories of the Duke of Portland, London, 1937, pp. 104-105. (I am grateful to Dr Giuseppe Mastruzzo for finding this reference.) The nineteenth century catalogue of the Portland collection at Welbeck describes the work as hanging from 1857 in the Swan Drawing Room, and gives its dimensions as 119.4 x 119.4 cm (47 x 47 inches). It also asserts, very dubiously, that this was 'the original painted immediately after Delaroche saw the Emperor, from which all the numerous replicas were made'. See C. Fairfax Murray, Catalogue of the pictures belonging to His Grace the Duke of Portland, at Welbeck Abbey, and in London, 1894.
(3) Ibid., p. 104.
(4) Illustrated London News, 22 October 1842, p. 376.
(6) For the general context in which this point about specific reproductions may be understood, see Stephen Bann, Parallel Lines: Printmakers, Painters and Photographers in Nineteenth Century France, New Haven and London, 2001.
(7) Illustrated London News, 15 November 1856, p. 508. For further references to this issue, see Stephen Bann, Paul Delaroche: History Painted, London, 1997, pp. 249-51.
(8) I am extremely grateful to Lord Sandwich for allowing me to look over the rich materials left by his ancestress which are preserved in the family home at Mapperton in Dorset.
(9) This is reported in the Illustrated London News, 22 October 1842, p. 376.
(10) Reprinted in Bann, op. cit (in n. 7 above), p. 247. Lady Sandwich provides fascinating details about the meticulous care with which the authenticity of the scene has been secured. The uniform of Napoleon has been lent by Baron Marchant, his erstwhile valet de chambre, and the sword was carried at Waterloo. The snuff box held behind Napoleon's back is one that was given by him to his faithful aide, the Comte de Flahaut. This may be an indication that Lady Sandwich was involved in the securing of these precious objects, since the name of the Flahaut family recurs in her correspondence.
(11) See letter dated 21 September 1816, announcing the despatch of the bust, and the payment of 150 [pounds sterling] to Thorvaldsen, Box 281, Mapperton Archives.
(12) Letter from George Hayter to Lady Sandwich, dated Paris, 6 July 1845. The Wellington portrait recalls the point that Messrs. Graves (the publisher of the engraving of Napoleon in his Study) evidently applied to Delareohe himself to 'paint a companion portrait of Wellington', but received the 'national and characteristic' answer: 'No, not for millions!' See Illustrated London News, 22 October 1842, p. 376.
(13) Letter from Hayter, 6 July 1846, as in n. 12 above.
(14) In fact, Delaroche's first major picture, Joan of Arc (1824), had by 1827 ended up in the collection of Napoleon's cousin by marriage, Arrighi di Casanova, Duc de Pedoue, who survived the downfall of the imperial family. But there is no evidence to suppose that this patron was involved with Napoleon in his Study.
(15) A letter dated 12 January 1832 (Box 288, Mapperton Archives), informs her that 'Count Walewsky has been so well received at the Palais Royal (Residence of King Louis-Philippe) and is net likely to be included in any measure against the Poles at Paris'.
(16) For a succinct description of this policy, see Helene Lafont-Couturier, 'La maison Goupil ou la notion d'oeuvre originaie remise en question', Revue de l'art, no. 112 (1996-2), pp. 59-69.
(17) The Athenaeum, 6 January 1855, no. 1419, p. 22.
(18) Illustrated London News, vol. xxv, 30 December 1854, p. 691.
(19) See Thomas Balston, John Martin: His Life and Works, London, 1947, p. 59.
(20) See the biographical entry for Naylor in Frederic Boase, Modern English Biography, London, 1965 reprint, vol. v, p. 275, where these sums are quoted from an item in the Gentleman's Magazine,
(21) See my entry in Claude Allemand-Cosneau and Isabelle Julia (eds.), Paul Delaroche: Un peintre dans l'histoire, exh. cat., RMN, Paris, 1999, pp. 306-307.
(22) The contents of the letter are summarised in Julius Vogel, Das stadtische Museum zu Leipzig von seinen Anfangan bis zur Gegenwart, Leipzig, 1892, p. 93, note 16. Although I have tried to obtain a copy of the original letter, the search has been fruitless, and it is possible that it was lost during World War it.
(23) Getty Research Institute, Special Collections, 900239--1, Account books of Goupil et Cie, 1850s, fols. 40, 46.1.
(24) Ibid. In cases where a pupil or collaborator has in fact painted the work, this is specified.
(25) See Elisabeth Foucad-Walter, 'Paul Delaroche et le theme du Passage du Saint-Bernard par Bonaparte', La Revue du Louvre, no. 5/6, 1984, pp. 367-84.
(26) C.E. Vulliamy, The Onslow Family 1528-1874, London, 1953, p. 244.
(27) Ibid., p. 245.
(28) See Catalogue of the Paintings, Sculpture and other works of art at Osborne, London, 1876, pp. 35, 240, 380. I am grateful to Hen. Lady Roberts, Librarian of the Royal Collection, for communicating these details.
(29) Ibid., p, 35.
Stephen Bann is Professor of History of Art at the University of Bristol. He is also currently Edmond J. Safra Professor at CASVA, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. His publications include Paul Delaroche: History Painted (1997).
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