Finding Napoleon Bonaparte FACE-to-FACE

During my travels to do research on Napoleon Bonaparte, I’ve taken hundreds of photographs of Napoleonic sites, art, memorabilia, and related objects. I’ve learned a lot about about military campaigns, geopolitics, and daily life in his times. I’ve become fascinated (and distracted by) the countless characters who surrounded Napoleon, from his birth in Corsica through his time in power to his death on St Helena. And I’ve enjoyed new friendships with many people, particularly members of the Napoleonic Historical Society, who share my enthusiasm for The Man and his times. But the biggest challenge has been coming to terms with who that man, Napoleon Bonaparte, really was.

In his time, without photography, video or voice recordings, it was easier that it is today to be opaque. On one hand, Napoleon Bonaparte was the first modern celebrity so everything from the sleeve of a discarded coat to his camp toilet was scrupulously preserved. There must be thousands of images of his face. Until recently, however, I thought those images so varied that it was impossible to know what he really looked like. Then my husband Bert and I gathered together seventy-three photographs into the slide show featured above. Certainly Napoleon’s appearance changes as he ages, but these photos helped me to come face to face with the man I’ve been trying to understand. Bert and I hope you enjoy them! 

 

7 Comments

  • November 22, 2014 - 5:31 am | Permalink

    Fantastic. Thanks to you both for putting this together. It really ought to be more widely available, perhaps even on St Helena? Incidentally my powers of recognition and recall are not great, whose is the image at 1.55?

    best wishes

    John

  • Vincent Amato
    November 22, 2014 - 10:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this site. Nice work. With regard to Napoleon’s actual appearance, during a brief hospital stay, I found myself sharing a room with a gentleman from Corsica. When he told me where he was from, I could not help but marvel at his resemblance to his famous countryman. I suspect there are many Napoleon “look-alikes” on the island. I look forward to a visit.

    My own fascination with Napoleon (and the beginning of my hobby of collecting various Napoleon art and objet) began with my reading of Emil Ludwig’s gripping biography–which I highly recommend. Here in the Anglo-American realm, Napoleon’s genius and contributions tend to be discounted at best. He is more likely to be depicted as a one-dimensional megalomaniac. Vive la France.

  • mrodenberg
    November 22, 2014 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Vincent. Glad you enjoyed the site. Please come back to visit again. I know others who say the Ludwig biography started their interest in Napoleon. Vincent Cronin’s book is one of my other favorites. I love your story about the Corsican Napoleon-look-alike. Hope you get to Corsica! All the best, Margaret

  • mrodenberg
    November 22, 2014 - 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Hi, John. Glad you enjoyed the Faces video. At 1.55, you find Mark Schneider, one of the three top Napoleon actors in the world and my favorite. He regularly plays Napoleon at Malmaison and battle reenactments, including Borodino and past Waterloos. He probably won’t be picked for next year’s 200th anniversary of Waterloo, if for no other reason, because he’s American (although his mother was French). I had the pleasure of meeting him at last year’s Napoleonic Historical Society conference in Washington, DC. He not only has the looks, he has the mannerisms and charisma. I’m happy to have you link to or embed the video from Vimeo in your website.

  • Howard May
    November 22, 2014 - 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I found this presentation extremely interesting especially since I have hundreds of bronzes, hundreds of porcelains, hundreds of paintings, etc and etc. of the Emperor and most have different faces. I often wonder which ones have the best resemblence.

  • Howard May
    November 22, 2014 - 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I found your Photographs extremely interesting especially since I have hundreds of bronzes, hundrerds of porcelains, hundrerds of paintings of the Emperor and I often wonder which have the best representation of his actual face.

  • November 24, 2014 - 3:12 am | Permalink

    Many thanks. I will put in the link.

    best wishes

    John

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