Sunday, May 3, 2009

Montreal, again and Napoleon

Montreal's own mini St. Peters, the Cathedral of Mary, Queen of the World.

I just made a brief trip to Montreal last week, the first time in awhile. The excuse for going was to pick up a display cabinet allowing me to put jewelry in the window, made by a company near Montreal. The cost of shipping was high enough to nearly pay for a trip up to pick the piece up, and I love Montreal, so it was a great reason to go.

One of the acts, on a slack wire, pretty fantastic, in Ovo.

I went to the Cirque du Soleil's new show, Ovo, under a big tent on the waterfront. I always enjoy Cirque, the incredible feats of their acrobats gives me renewed respect for us as a species, truly amazing what training can do, no other animal has the range of abilities that we do. Not only was the show great, but the crowd was as well, beautiful, well dressed, interesting looking and lacking in the feverish transparent ambition that typifies New York City. These people were simply gorgeous because they are, with a relaxed attitude. Fun to see. I could not take photos of the show, and am too self conscious to photograph the beauties I saw so I have to leave that to my readers imagination.

Column honoring Lord Nelson, who defeated Napoleon in the naval Battle of Trafalgar. One wonders what the Montrealese thought of placing this column in their city.

Last time I was in Montreal there was a wonderful exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts of Napoleonic art and objects. One of the main lenders to that exhibition has given his collection to the museum so they now have a wing devoted to Napoleon. I love the Empire style, no great surprise there given that it is based on Classical antiquity. Somehow this wing seems to compensate for the column honoring Lord Nelson above.

This fabulous painting of Napoleon is by Andrea Appiani, ca 1800, when Napoleon was just First Consul. Totally sexy and beautiful here, this painting certainly heroizes its subject, and is a portrait that I had not seen before and that has not been reproduced much.

This incredible bust by the studio of Thorvaldsen is one of my favorite pieces in the museum. Here Napoleon is basically shown as god, with the eagle of Zeus supporting him, and the aegis with the Medusa head of Athena on his shoulder, and a crown of laurel leaves. All taken from ancient Roman images of the apotheosis of their emperors.

One of the best parts though of this bust is the back, which is carved with a palm tree symbolizing Napoleons conquest of Egypt. This is one of the only times I have ever seen the back of a portrait bust finished in such a way. This bust is worthy of its ancient prototypes, here the artist has truly captured the spirit of antiquity in its sincerity and earnestness to glorify its subject.

This teapot in the form of a swan is one of my favorite pieces in the museum. Just a beautiful conceit and beautifully made, very detailed. Two swans back to back, their arching necks forming the handle and spout respectively. Again the swan was a favorite motif in Roman art, being the symbol of Apollo.

I am very glad the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal now has a permanent gallery of Napoleonic art. It somehow seems very appropriate for the second largest French speaking city in the world, and is a mark of the peace we have now between France and England, we can enjoy the beautiful things created during the reign of one of Europes greatest rulers. I am somewhat sorry that Napoleon was defeated and wonder what the world would have been like had he triumphed. No doubt it was his own overweening ambition that brought him down, had he been content to simply govern France, he would probably have ruled for a long time.

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