♫ Napoléon Premier, Descend les Escaliers… ♪

If you weren’t a small French child, you probably have no idea why I chose this title… if, on the other hand, you did grow up in France or have a kid that did, I’m sure you know the next lyric is “et demande au boucher où sont les cabinets!” Either way, France’s (in)famous emperor is one of the subjects of a current exhibit at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden. “The Styles that Ruled the Empires: Russia, Napoleon and 1812” opened earlier in February. For the 200th anniversary of the  Patriotic War of 1812 (when Russia pretty much trounced France) Hillwood celebrates the Russian decorative arts that were created to celebrate their military triumph but also explores the Empire style that was adopted by Russian artisans, despite the war, signaling the continued enchantment with French art and culture.

If you need a little history refresher, the “patriotic war” were pretty much disastrous for Napoleon, who enjoyed a reputation as an undefeated military genius until his ambitions of European dominance were dealt a terrible (and cold Russian) blow. Tolstoi’s masterpiece “War and Peace” (which I promise I will finish reading one day!) is set precisely during that time and explores the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families. So it’s a perfect pick for a series of Napoleonic films to be shown at Hillwood concurently with the exhibit. Hosted by Sandro and Tati of Art Soiree, the 1956 film adaptation of the book, starring Audrey Hepburn and Henri Fonda, will be shown on Tuesday, March 29th (5:30-10PM.) A week earlier, l’Alliance Française will provide insight into the other side’s perspective by showing the 1955 French film, Napoleon. Directed by (Russian born) Sasha Guitry, the film follows Bonaparte from his early life in Corsica to his death in Saint Helena (shown March 22, 5:30-9:30PM.) Admission is $7 for Alliance Française, Art Soirée and Hillwood Members and $15 otherwise. You can pick up snacks at Hillwoods’ cafe or bring your own picknick…

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