Leave it to New Orleans to celebrate Napoleon Bonaparte's 250th birthday. This week, the downtown antiques gallery M.S. Rau is hosting a weeklong celebration that will include a champagne toast and dessert party on the Emperor’s birthday and an exhibit on his life and work.

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M.S. Rau will be unveiling a collection of some of Napoleon’s personal belongings, including the desk that he used while living in exile on the island of St. Helena. Other items in the exhibit include art that was created while he was in power.

"Specially made for the emperor, the desk resided in his own bedroom during his 6 years of exile," Kristin Core, marketing manager at M.S. Rau, told Adore. "He spent much of that time writing his memoirs, which would have been penned on this very desk." Visitors are invited to see this desk and other historical artifacts.


Napoleon's desk

New Orleanians have a deep connection to Napoleon. New Orleans was under the rule of Napoleon for a brief period when he served as First Consul of France, until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Napoleon House, the famous French Quarter Bar and Restaurant, was to be Napoleon’s residence while he was in exile, though he never made it here. "Reminders of him can still be found throughout the area, from Napoleon House (the popular French Quarter restaurant) to street names commemorating his military victories," Core said. "We chose to celebrate Napoléon’s 250th birthday as a way to also celebrate the city’s rich French heritage."

Widely considered to be one of the most influential historical figures of all time, Napoleon commissioned artists, designers and architects to create portraits and other artwork to legitimize his reign. This era of artwork is known as the Napoleonic era and is characterized by patriotic themes and neoclassical style. Born in Corsica to Italian parents, Napoleon rose to power during the French Revolution, serving as Emperor of France from 1804-1814, and then again briefly in 1815, before being permanently exiled to St. Helena. During his reign, he conquered most of Europe.


Napoleon before the Battle of Moscow by Joseph Franque. It is considered to be Franque’s masterpiece and one of the most proud displays of Napoleon.

"His story is one of the most incredible in history, rising from relative obscurity on the island of Corsica to become the most powerful man in the Western world, only to lose it all and die in exile on St. Helena," Core said.

Napoleon’s impact on the world is still seen today, from the widespread use of the metric system to civil law codes in Europe, which were largely influenced by the Napoleonic Code. The items in the exhibit have incredible historic significance, and there’s no better time to see them than next week.

Visitors are invited to tour the exhibit, which is free and open to the public, from 9 am- 5 pm starting Monday (8/12) until Saturday (8/17). The champagne and dessert party is also free and open to all and will be held from 12:30 pm- 3 pm.