Napoleon’s lost Palaces: the Tuileries, Saint-Cloud, Meudon


Title in French: Palais disparus de Napoléon. Tuileries, Saint-Cloud, Meudon

First Consul of the Republic and then Emperor of the French, Napoleon Bonaparte reappropriated the “royal houses” of the Ancien Régime to his own ends. Determined to “finish the Revolution”, between 1800 and 1815, Napoleon called upon architecture, fine arts and decorative arts to provide him  with a fitting environment that was both luxurious and conveyed a message of order and grandeur. A political and economic purpose was added to the desire to create a prestigious setting for himself and his entourage: namely, to occupy artists, craftsmen and factory workers and pacify a society emerging from the revolutionary turmoil while promoting French industry in the face of its European competitors.

Three of the main palaces thus reinvented – the Tuileries, Saint-Cloud and Meudon – burned down in 1870 and 1871, during the Franco-Prussian war and the Paris Commune. However, numerous pieces of furniture and elements of their decorations that were placed in storage before the conflict have survived. Reassembled for this exhibition at the Galerie des Gobelins, resuscitated for the first time these vanished palaces and revealed the inventiveness of the creators of the early 19th century: new types of furniture appeared, metal-work arts reached a kind of apogee, the walls of the salons and the upholstery of the seats were adorned with bright colours of absolute originality.  In this exhibtion, reconstructions and virtual restitutions evoked the surprising decorative ensembles conceived under the aegis of the architects and administrators of the “Garde-Meuble”.

“Napoleon’s Lost Palaces” thus takes us back two centuries, to the great theater of an Empire between two worlds, an astonishing synthesis of the old monarchy and the new France.

For this exhibition, the Fondation Napoléon lent a chamberlain’s key (INV 1119).

See more photos of the exhibition.

This exhibition was part of the “2021 Année Napoléon” label.

Location: Mobilier National – Galerie des Gobelins, Paris [French Furniture Repository]
Dates: 15 September 2021-15 January 2022
Curator: under the direction of Thierry Sarmant, and under the presidency of the academic advice of Thierry Lentz
Set Design : Agence d’architecture Philippe Pumain
Attendance : 20 000 visitors