Exhibition “Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène”: a glimpse behind the scenes

Exhibition “Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène”: a glimpse behind the scenes
Napoléon's uniform (detail) ©Paris, Musée de l’Armée/Pascal Segrette

On 6 April a major new exhibition opens at the Musée de l’Armée in Paris: “Napoleon at St Helena. The conquest of memory“. Two months before the opening, preparations are well underway…

Mannequinage de la culotte ©Paris, musée de l’Armée/Pascal Segrette.
The mannequin is first dressed with the trousers ©Paris, Musée de l’Armée/Pascal Segrette.


On Friday 8 January two works from the collection of the Fondation Napoléon, the waistcoat and breeches worn by Napoleon on St Helena were taken to the Musée de l’Armée in Paris where they were reunited with the riding coat the Emperor also wore in exile on St Helena, belonging to the museums of Sens (France).The purpose of the day was to first to lightly clean the textiles and then to assemble the garments on a mannequin. This operation represents a historic moment as it was the first time these objects from different institutions have been assembled in order to be presented to the public together for the first time. The garments were left in the capable hands of Isabelle Grisolia, textile restorer at the Musée de l’Armée.




Vérification de la tension du textile
Testing the tension of the textile ©Paris, Musée de l’Armée/Pascal Segrette.


The first step was to sculpt the shape of the mannequin so that it would have the same and size and build as Napoleon so that the final appearance will be as realistic as possible. Then, the fabrics were cleaned, using a special vacuum cleaner that removes dust effectively but gently. Lastly, the different garments were installed on the mannequin. After six hours work, it was covered with a protective cloth and then stored in the reserves of the Musée de l’Armée.





Le mannequin retourne en réserve jusqu'à l'ouverture de l'exposition ©Paris, musée de l’Armée/Pascal Segrette.
The mannequin goes into storage until the opening of the exhibition ©Paris, Musée de l’Armée/Pascal Segrette.




The public will have to wait just a few more weeks before they will be able to discover for themselves (in one of the very first rooms of the exhibition) this exceptional installation which is not likely to be seen again for a while.






This coat will be restored together with the hat Napoleon wore at Waterloo (also from the collection at Sens) thanks to a partnership between the Fondation Napoléon and the town of Sens.