The Caesar of Paris: Napoleon Bonaparte, Rome, and the Artistic Obsession That Shaped an Empire
Author Susan Jaques on her book, The Caesar of Paris: Napoleon Bonaparte, Rome, and the Artistic Obsession That Shaped an Empire, which looks at Napoleon’s obsession with Rome and his efforts to turn Paris into the new cultural capital of Europe in place of Rome.
A monumental cultural history of Napoleon Bonaparte’s fascination with antiquity and how it shaped Paris’ artistic landscape.
Napoleon is one of history’s most fascinating figures. But his complex relationship with Rome—both with antiquity and his contemporary conflicts with the Pope and Holy See—have undergone little examination.
In The Caesar of Paris, Susan Jaques reveals how Napoleon’s dueling fascination and rivalry informed his effort to turn Paris into “the new Rome”— Europe’s cultural capital—through architectural and artistic commissions around the city. His initiatives and his aggressive pursuit of antiquities and classical treasures from Italy gave Paris much of the classical beauty we know and adore today.
Napoleon had a tradition of appropriating from past military greats to legitimize his regime—Alexander the Great during his invasion of Egypt, Charlemagne during his coronation as emperor, even Frederick the Great when he occupied Berlin. But it was ancient Rome and the Caesars that held the most artistic and political influence and would remain his lodestars. Whether it was the Arc de Triopmhe, the Venus de Medici in the Louvre, or the gorgeous works of Antonio Canova, Susan Jaques brings Napoleon to life as never before.
[Recorded on December 9, 2021.]
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Susan Jaques is the author of The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia and a docent at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. She is a regular lecturer on art history and has presented talks in Washington D.C., Portland, New York, Boston, and Illinois, and many others.