I felt like I was living in the movie A Night at the Museum on Sunday. Accompanied by the mistress of the shop and our lovely journey woman, the two summer interns (c’est moi and one other) journeyed to Washington DC to study extant items. The best thing about having me at an Art Gallery is that you don’t need to bother with a tour guide. Just give me a clipboard and call me Julie the Cruise Director!
This photo was quickly taken as we ran to the Castle to make sure we made it in before closing. We didn’t but it didn’t matter since had permission to be in after closing time. As my father would say: pics or it didn’t happen.
At the American Art Museum I’m afraid that my original major might have shown through just a teensy tiny bit. There may or may not have been a moment when I had a conversation with the bust of Tennyson. I’m sure everyone slinks into a room and says “Well fancy seeing you here Mr. Tennyson?” That’s completely normal for me :D
At the The National Museum of Women in the Arts we were able to catch The Royalists to Romantics exhibition (which if you are in the area GO SEE IT) where I was able to get my symbolism nerd on. It has to be said that Napoleon was one handsome bloke. As I stood in front of his painting I gave an impromptu lecture on the symbolism of Bees in the portraits of Napoleon and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Seriously this man was the master of expressing power through subtle and not-so-subtle use of symbolism.
On the topic of the NMWA, I might have gone a little teary eyed when I stood in front of Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Young Woman from 1580. I had so many conversations about the zibellino (flea fur) during my internship with the Tudor Tailor and it was so lovely to see one in real life.
Unfortunately I can’t talk about most of the highlights of that night but I can say that I’ve never toured an art gallery as fast as I did at the National Gallery in DC. We had the five minute tour since we had a timeline to keep (which didn’t matter since we were in the museum well after it had closed anyway). While everyone else was on a pursuit of English Art I had no problems running after the French art. It’s not everyday you get to see The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuilerie (cue more bee symbolism). I’m not picky when it comes to Art. French or English, throw it at me.
Finally, I can cross “stay in a museum well after it’s been closed examining extant garments” off my bucket list.
The Met says: The extraordinary embroidery of this cape shows the delight of the British in the age-old tradition of representing nature in embroidery. The whimsy and pleasure expressed in the embroidery is evident.
I found this in an article about Bertie and Victoria ” … in the countryside even beehives were draped in the fabric, as part of the age-old superstition of telling bees of a death.”
I was curious about this superstition so I decided to research a bit more about it. Turns out it’s fascinating!
” … Country folk had a deep respect for bees, recognising that without them there would be no life as no flower would be pollinated to create seed for life to continue. The respect for bees continued for thousands of years … the death of George V1 of England it was reported that beekeepers went, scarf on head for respect to inform the bees of his death. Because Telling the Bees was the most important act of all… . ”
Ye Olde Sussex Pages had this to add, “Bees, it was once said, must always be treated as members of the family and kept informed of important news, particularly deaths and births. Someone ought ot go out to the hives, tap each gently with the front-door key, and tell the news; some say one ought to put black crape on them after a death, and white ribbon for a joyful event… . “
I hope you have enjoyed todays post about Napoleon Bonaparte and his love of bees. I would like to take the oppurtunity while on this topic to talk about the growing threat to the bee population of the world.
It’s debated whether or not this quote can be traced back to Albert Einstein but it’s scary no matter who said it: ““If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”
I encourage you to read more about this growing problem and do your part! Recently my neighborhood in London chose to plant gardens filled with bee-friendly flowers. During the fall last year I noticed all these this little bird house looking things popping up along the walk ways. When I asked the lady living across from my home she explained that they were for the bumbles to live in for fall because it would be cold and they needed a warm home too.
I’ve lovingly nicknamed these little homes the Humble Bumble Abode.
” … and even her white satin slippers had a golden bee embroidered on each toe, surmounted by a cluster of gilt bobbin lace.”“
“The pattern of pillow cover is inpired by of one of the two side sections of the enormous carpet used in the Throne Room of the Tuileries during the Empire period, of which only a few fragments survive at the Mobilier National. This carpet, probably rewoven to decorate one of the Imperial residences, was offered by Napoleon to the King of Saxony, Frederick-Augustus 1st (1750-1827), during his visit to Paris in December 1809. It is the only carpet from the Imperial period to have retained its Napoleonic emblems.”
“The pattern of pillow cover is inpired by of one of the two side sections of the enormous carpet used in the Throne Room of the Tuileries during the Empire period, of which only a few fragments survive at the Mobilier National.
This carpet, probably rewoven to decorate one of the Imperial residences, was offered by Napoleon to the King of Saxony, Frederick-Augustus 1st (1750-1827), during his visit to Paris in December 1809. It is the only carpet from the Imperial period to have retained its Napoleonic emblems.”
“An Ornament from the Royal Imperial robe of
Napolean Bounaparte in which He was crowned Emperor of
The Gauls by the Pope Pius the 7th in the Church of Notre Dame
and purchased from the superiors of that church. Also the
Royal Robe of the Empress Maria Louisa.
By Mr Joseph Tournier December 1814
Given to me by Mr Joseph Tournier as a testimony of His Regards
No. 7 Boulevard des Italians
December 16th 1814”
I found this sad: “To date this is the only known item to have survived from the mantles.”
“Symbol of immortality and resurrection, the bee was chosen so as to link the new dynasty to the very origins of France. Golden bees (in fact, cicadas) were discovered in 1653 in Tournai in the tomb of Childeric I, founder in 457 of the Merovingian dynasty and father of Clovis. They were considered as the oldest emblem of the sovereigns of France.”
“ However, he often wore bees, or rather images of the small, industrious insects, sometimes quite a lot of them, embroidered on some of his regal garments. They also ornamented many objects in his imperial residences, and he allowed some of his highest ranking courtiers to wear them and decorate with them as well. By the time the Prince of Wales took the oath by which he became Regent of England, the bee was one of the most important symbols of the power and prestige of Napoleon’s empire. “
11 x 7cm
This bee, embroidered in gold thread, probably came from the canopy
that hung over the throne in the palace of Fontainebleau. The bees, in
gold thread, were delivered by the embroiderer Picot, in 1808. 350 to
be applied on the outside of the draperies, along with 114 on the lining
of velvet armchairs and 122 on the cushions on the footstools.
Below is a photo of the throne room in the palace of Fontainebleau as it
looks today with the canopy restored.
Note the bees on the throne cushion and foot cushion.
It would be best to just quote what the museum has to say in the gift shop since I’m having an issue find a good picture of the harp.
“Inspired by the bees adorning the harp of Empress Josephine
This harp, signed by Cousineau, father and son, used to belong to Empress Josephine and is now in the music room of the Château of Malmaison. It is made of mahogany and richly decorated with gilded bronze, in particular bees, which inspired these different pieces of jewellery. When looking for new emblems to replace the royal fleur-de-lis, Napoleon chose the bee, recalling that in the 17th century, more than three hundred bees had been found in the tomb of Childeric, father of Clovis. Their social organisation and obedience to their queen appealed to him. The bee can be found on clothes, draperies, carpets, and decorative furniture bronzes.”
This harp, signed by Cousineau, father and son, used to belong to Empress Josephine and is now in the music room of the Château of Malmaison. It is made of mahogany and richly decorated with gilded bronze, in particular bees, which inspired these different pieces of jewellery.
When looking for new emblems to replace the royal fleur-de-lis, Napoleon chose the bee, recalling that in the 17th century, more than three hundred bees had been found in the tomb of Childeric, father of Clovis. Their social organisation and obedience to their queen appealed to him. The bee can be found on clothes, draperies, carpets, and decorative furniture bronzes.”
And now that I start looking I’m finding bees everywhere! Look at how many are in the paitning The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries(1812) by Jacques-Louis David (1748 – 1825).
“Jean-Baptiste Isabey, best known as a miniature painter, and a close friend of the Bonapartes, was charged with the design of these very important garments. He was also responsible for the design of the garments to be worn by the highest-ranking dignitaries who would attend the ceremony. Isabey found that the Childeric “bee” was too compact and too lacking in detail to give the desired effect when embroidered in a semé (all-over) pattern in gilt thread on the red velvet of the coronation cloaks. Isabey developed a new bee design in a larger size, and volant en arrière, that is, seen from the top with partially open wings. It was this design, with variations, which became the primary version of Napoleon’s bee emblem.”
I’m not quite sure about the truth behind this story but it’s interesting either way: “When Napoleon moved into the Royal Palace at Tuileries he refused to spend money on new decor. However, he could not allow the drapery - with its embroidered fleur-de-lis (the French Royal emblem) - to continue to hang in the windows of the palace. His solution was to have the rich and elegant drapes turned upside down. The inverted symbol of the overthrown monarchy looked like a bee. From then on, the tenacious bee became the emblem of Napoleon Bonaparte.”
(I believe that I found this on the blog I linked too. Apologies that I can’t find the article.)