Political propaganda in the age of Napoleon Bonapart has long been of interest to historians; however, the investigation largely has been limited in scope to the two dimensional works of art commissioned by this notorious figure. In this discussion, I will extend the examination to include some of the critical architectural works built and commissioned by Napoleon, particularly those lining the Champs Elyseés.
The Champs Elyseés is a road that runs through the heart of Paris and hosts the majority of Paris’s most famous historical monuments including the Arc de Triomphe, the Colonne Vendôme, the Arc du Carrousel, and the Louvre. Napoleon invested large amounts of money and resources into these monuments with the goal of projecting a public image that solidified his claim to power. By building upon the endeavors of his predecessors, both from antiquity and his modern day, Napoleon built a persona that informed the public of his divine right to power and his ability to fulfill this mission.
By examining the iconography of the three structures that lead to the Louvre, the social history surrounding these structures, as well as Napoleon’s own intentions, I will show that these architectural monuments represent a calculated work of political propaganda commissioned in order to create as personal, politically moving, and as convincing a portrait of this self-crowned emperor as any two-dimensional painting.
Margaret Harris, ’14
Major: Art History
Sponsor: Christina Morris Penn-Goetsch