Posts tagged ‘France’
This article was originally featured in Explorica’s 2012 fall magazine. We’ll be sharing 20 life-changing travel experiences throughout the season. Transform your students’ lives (and maybe your own) with any of these exceptional educational travel experiences.
Come Face to Foot with Napoleon
Maybe your students have seen it miniaturized within an art or history textbook. Perhaps you’ve even displayed it with a projector to generate classroom discussion. But neither you nor your students have ever truly experienced the epic grandeur of Jacque-Louis David’s painting, The Coronation of Napoleon, until you’ve seen it in person. Displayed in the Louvre, Paris’s temple to art, this painting is a must-see. Of course, standing more than twenty feet tall and over thirty feet wide, you could hardly miss this masterwork. As the title describes, the subject is the crowning of Napoleon Bonaparte as the Emperor of the new France. The painting, which took over three years to complete, was for the time a nearly photo-realist depiction of one of France’s most important historic events—albeit with a few embellishments (ever the maman’s boy, Napoleon had David add his mother to the adoring audience).
When you view the painting in person, your eyes are drawn to the vivid detail etched onto every face and façade. Because of the painting’s immense size, mistakes would be magnified, so David created an entire miniature replica of the characters and settings. As you scan the canvas, note the sumptuous textures of the fabrics and clothing, knowing that the shades and colours depicted only became fully realized through the use of costumed dolls.
After giving yourself time to take in the whole scene, take a moment to reflect on where this important art work is displayed. Were it not for the event depicted in the painting, you might not get to see it at
all. Built in the 12th century as a palace fortress, the Louvre was later turned into a museum open solely to European royalty. Although the sweeping changes of the French Revolution opened the Louvre to the public, some feared Napoleon’s consolidation of power might lead to a return to royalty-only admission. On the contrary, the new emperor kept admission available to all art-loving citizens, while also adding new museum wings.
In 1807, after first viewing The Coronation of Napoleon, a pleased Emperor Bonaparte remarked to David: “This is not a painting; you walk in this work.” In other words, this painting is an experience unto itself. Through a truly amazing confluence of subject matter, style, and even display venue, viewing this painting in person is a life-changing event for any student— and for students of all ages.
Our ‘Get to Know’ blog series gives you an in-depth look at the people, places and activities that make educational tours amazing. Today’s post features the Château de Chenonceau, one of the most beautiful landmarks in France, and a destination available on our popular Paris & the Loire Valley tour.
Commonly called ‘Ladies House’, or Le Château des Dames, this eleventh century castle contains remnants of France’s storied past—and is a focal point for some of the country’s most powerful women. On your tour, you can view the chambers of former queens, many of which remain unchanged since their former occupants, well, occupied them. Enormous canopy beds, ancient silverware and immaculate gardens are some of the treasures these grand dames left behind.
The first woman to ‘man’ this castle was none other than King Henry II’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers. It is her gardens that still stand to prove the manicured horticultural beauty of the time period. The acres of fruit trees arranged in triangular landscape designs survived the mistress who was ousted by the King’s widow, Catherine de’ Medici, after his death. But it was Catherine de’ Medici herself that brought the most fame to the chateau when she held the first fireworks display this side of the Pyrenees. One can only imagine the site of some big sparklers shimmering over Chenenceau’s drawbridge.