Frazier Extends Napoleon Exhibit, Adds Saturday Hours

The Frazier History Museum has extended the run on an exhibit of items from the private art collection of Napoleon Bonaparte.  “The Eye of Napoleon,” which opened in October, was originally scheduled to run at the Frazier through February 9, then move to Montreal, where it would open in the Notre Dame Basilica in May.

Even with installation time, that would have left a month between engagements, so the producers and both institutions agreed it would be better to keep Napoleon’s art and artifacts at the Frazier for another month. “The Eye of Napoleon” will now close on March 2. 

Museum spokeswoman Helene Kramer says the extension is unusual for traveling exhibits.

“With most of the special exhibitions that we get, there’s a start date and an end date and the exhibit moves to the next city or the next museum, and that’s that,” says Kramer. “In this particular case, the folks in Montreal at the Notre Dame Basilica were not ready to show the exhibition any earlier than their May date, and it would have meant putting the artifacts in storage, taking them out, and then sending them to Montreal. So this turned out to work in our favor.”

The Eye of Napoleon now runs through March 2. The exhibition includes  more than 200 artifacts and works of art that belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte and family members, including a small studio model of the iconic Jacques-Louis David painting “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” and an array of artwork from Napoleon’s own collection, plus jewelry, household items, coronation artifacts and one of the emperor’s signature bicorne hats. The pieces come from French collector Pierre-Jean Chalencon’s private collection. It opened at the Frazier in October.

And starting on January 11, the museum will offer extended Saturday evening programming that showcases the exhibit.

“Clearly, ‘The Eye of Napoleon’ exhibition is a real adult exhibition, unlike ‘Mythic Creatures’ and some others we’ve had in the past that have attracted kids and kids at heart,” says Kramer. “This is something that’s not terribly interactive, it’s filled with fabulous art and craft, but it’s clearly an adult exhibition.”

So the museum is adding additional programming geared toward adults, rather than families with children. The museum normally closes at 5 p.m. on Saturdays, but will stay open until 9 p.m. for four consecutive Saturdays, starting with “Date Night in Paris” on January 11. The event will feature language lessons, French music, films food and wine.

Other  upcoming Saturday night events include dramatic readings of Napoleon’s love letters to his wife Josephine, featuring Louisville’s Alliance de Française and members of the Jane Austen Society and Locust Grove on January 18. French professors from the University of Louisville and Indiana University Southeast will also be on hand to help with translation.

“They were sort of sophomoric for an emperor,” says Kramer.  “His love letters, even post- the official end of their marriage, were quite immature, I guess, compared to what you would expect.”

But, Kramer says, the relationship between Napoleon and Josephine was “was one of the great love affairs of all time,” so things could get interesting in the dramatic reading.  

On January 25, historical interpreters will guide special gallery tours, and on February 1, the Chicago-based Napoleonic Historical Society will host a public lecture. Kramer says if the initial four events attract an audience, the museum will extend the series of programming, too.

“We could potentially wrap up our Saturday nights on March 1 before the exhibit leaves us on March 2,” says Kramer. “If it goes well, we’ll do it.” 

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