Allegory of the Arts under Napoleon III

Allegory of the Arts under Napoleon III

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Title: The Allegory of the Arts under Napoleon III.

Author : MULLER Charles-Louis (1815 - 1892)

Creation date : 1863

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 88 - Width 90

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas Octagonal frame

Storage location: National Museum of the Château de Compiègne website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Picture reference: 90DE3111 / RE 42231

The Allegory of the Arts under Napoleon III.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: May 2005

Historical context

The reign of Napoleon III can be proud of the completion of the Louvre Palace, which was the emblem of royalty, then one of the symbols of the greatness of France.

Already, Napoleon Ier had decided to make it the first museum in the world. But his "grand design" was the reunion of the Louvre and the Tuileries, the first idea of ​​which dated back to the reign of the Valois, a grandiose project that was periodically called into question. In 1810, the Emperor approved the plans of Percier and Fontaine, but it was not until 1848 that the project saw the light of day.

It is up to the future Napoleon III to continue the work of his uncle. To carry out this task, he wisely chose the architect Louis-Tullius Visconti (1791-1853) who, who died prematurely, was replaced by Hector-Martin Lefuel (1810-1881).

On August 14, 1857, the New Louvre was solemnly inaugurated by Napoleon III. “The completion of the Louvre,” he said, “is not the whim of a moment, but the realization of a plan conceived for glory and sustained by the instinct of the country for more than three hundred years. The facade of the Imperial Museum has been completed, but all interior fittings remain to be done. Started in 1857, work will still be in progress in 1870, and the unfinished Imperial Museum will undergo multiple transformations to this day.

Image Analysis

This sketch by Charles-Louis Müller is a preparatory study for the decoration of the central compartment of the vault of the Denon room in the Louvre.

In a box simulated by a torus of foliage forming a quadrilobed frame, a crowned woman is seated. She is wearing a white dress and a red coat lined with ermine. She leans on a book with her left hand and draws with her right. At his feet, a lyre and a scroll. Above them putti hold an oval medallion representing Napoleon III in profile, facing right, crowned with laurel. On the left, a putto holds a cartouche bearing the inscription "Completion of the Louvre, Musée Napoléon III, 1855". To the right, partially hidden behind the large allegorical figure, another putto holds a cartridge on which we can read: "[AGR]ANDISSEMENT [THROUGH]IS, [LYO]N, ROUEN ».


Completed in December 1866, the decoration of the vault of the Denon room was entrusted, for the most part, to Charles-Louis Müller, who undertook to carry out all these paintings for the lump sum of 120,000 francs.

Of monumental proportions, this room has an elevation of 26.50 meters. The vault of the vast dome is adorned with trompe l'oeil sculptures and paintings imitating tapestry.

In the central box, Napoleon III inspires the allegorical figure of France who outlines under his protection a new artistic era: a fine example of a strategy of personification of power carried out in the wake of the famous uncle whose life it is to extend. work on the protection of the arts. The allegory becomes clearer in four other small medallions by Duchoisel, which represent putti symbolizing Painting, Sculpture, Architecture and Engraving.

The box, imitating carved wood, constitutes the upper border of four large crescent-shaped arches. They are decorated with false hangings simulating the tapestry, which evoke the four great eras of French art, respectively represented by an illustrious sovereign: Saint Louis represents the Middle Ages, François Ier the Renaissance, Louis XIV Classicism and Napoleon Ier modern Art.

  • allegory
  • Louvre
  • Napoleon III
  • Second Empire


Christiane AULANIER, History of the Palace and of the Louvre Museum. The New Louvre of Napoleon III, Paris, National Museums Editions, 1953. Jean-Marie MOULIN, "National Museum of the Château de Compiègne - Recent acquisitions (1978-1986) for the Museum of the Second Empire ”, in La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France, 1-1988.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "Allegory of the Arts under Napoleon III"

Video: Napoléon III, perspective économique et sociale


  1. Jirka

    I think you are wrong. I'm sure. Let's discuss this.

  2. Ueman

    Great article! Can I post it on my blog?

  3. Wolfcot

    I am a very big fan of cognac. I love cognac so much that I allow myself to drink it no more than twice a year. What a fan I am! This should be a celebration!

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