Napoleon’s death mask arrives at Hermitage Amsterdam

French emperor’s ghost haunts Amsterdam once again

Dodenmasker van Napoleon. Sint-Helena, 6 mei 1821. Papier-maché (?), in een houten kistje met glas. Kist 45 x 35 x 20 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Fotografie Janiek Dam

After arriving at the Hermitage Amsterdam, on 11 March, Napoleon’s iconic death mask was removed from its case and placed in the exhibition Alexander, Napoleon & Joséphine, a Story of Friendship, War and Art from the Hermitage. It will be exhibited alongside more than 200 art treasures and historical objects at the Hermitage Amsterdam starting on 28 March 2015. This intriguing death mask, the first taken of Napoleon’s face, was made shortly after his death on the island of St Helena on 5 May 1821. It was produced by the Scottish army physician Archibald Arnott, who performed the autopsy after the emperor’s death. The mask came to the Hermitage in St Petersburg from the estate of Maximilian de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg. Duke Maximilian married the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna of Russia in 1839 and the couple lived next door to the Winter Palace for several years. It is assumed that he received the mask from his father, Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson.

Two hundred years after the Battle of Waterloo, the Hermitage Amsterdam presents a compelling story about the lives of tsar Alexander I, Napoleon Bonaparte and the love of his life Joséphine de Beauharnais. The exhibition shows highlights from her impressive art collection, which included Dutch and Italian masters such as Potter, Van der Werff, Canova and Luini, who’s St. Catherina of Alexandria was long perceived as a Da Vinci painting. The initial friendship between the two emperors turned into a baffling war in 1812, with the dramatic crossing of the icy waters of the Berezina River by the French army during its retreat from Moscow. It was a turning point in history. The Hermitage Amsterdam shows an impressive presentation of this war in the great hall. Napoleon was defeated, Alexander paraded in Paris as the victor. He became friends with the former empress Joséphine, whom he loved to visit at her residence, Château de Malmaison. One day while out walking with him she fell ill and died soon after of a throat infection. A large part of her collection would end up in the Hermitage. Her descendants married into the royal families of Belgium, Denmark, Luxemburg, Norway and Sweden.

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Closed on 27 April (Kingsday) and 25 December (Christmas Day)
Open on 1 January 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.

The Hermitage Amsterdam is located on Amstel 51, Amsterdam

Photo Roy Beusker Fotografie

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