Peace Breaks Out! London and Paris in the Summer of 1814
20 June – 13 September 2014
Free to all
Focusing on the summer of 1814, when Europe celebrated peace after the fall of Napoleon and the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
This is the first exhibition devoted to the bicentenary of the Paris Treaty; often overshadowed by the First World War which broke out almost exactly one hundred years later. But it was the same group of allies who gathered in London to celebrate the signing of the treaty in 1814 that faced each on the battlefields as enemies in 1914. And so, as this exhibition reveals, to understand the origins of the Great War it is important to consider the events of the previous century.
Exploring the artistic production of Europe in the years after Napoleon's defeat, the display provides some interesting new perspectives on the era. The celebratory paintings and prints created in the UK for the festivities to celebrate the Treaty contrast with the satirical depictions of Englishmen visiting Paris, as seen by the French.
Paris had been cut off during Napoleon’s reign, so in 1814 visitors began flooding the city. The French representation of the British is not flattering: they are awkwardly dressed, glutinous, obsessed with bodily functions and prone to the charms of Parisian courtesans.
Also featured are Sir John Soane’s drawings of Paris, commissioned by his clerk Henry Parke during their second visit in 1819. They document the vast architectural changes to the French capital under Napoleon’s empire, especially the introduction of public space.
The display includes items from Soane’s collection of Napoleonica - bronze medals commemorating the significant events of Napoleon’s reign, a sword thought to have been presented to him by one of his officers and an exquisite hand-coloured volume by his personal architects and interior designers, Percier and Fontaine.
Perhaps most notably though is Soane’s ‘Napoleonic Ring’, which contains a lock of the Emperor’s hair and a portrait from 1797 of Napoleon aged just 27 - the youngest portrait of him in any British collection.