Would Napolean have driven a Bentley?

Bentley automobile

Napoleon Bonaparte

…was considered a tyrant, savior, megalomaniac, military genius, education and culture reformer, conqueror and an iconic historical figure.  Because of his short stature he even has an inferiority complex named after him along with towns, streets, ships, and cartoon characters. His life has been well documented in film, art and literature. From this we know that Napoleon and his wife Josephine were the trend setters of their time.

Following the French revolution, they were both known for setting the bar for fashion in the early 1800’s.  The couple established France as the fashion capitol of the world with their powerful influence on style.  Empress Josephine discarded her corset and adopted sleeveless, transparent tunics with Greco-Roman inspired columnar chemise dress designs. The Empire waist, popularised by Josephine and still worn in 2020 is a high waisted silhouette created with a ribbon or belt worn high under the breasts. Many portraits of Josephine show her favour to this liberating design.

Napoleon is often portrayed  wearing a large bicorn 2 cornered hat with a hand-in-waistcoat gesture a reference to several portraits from the era.  In 1804, Napoleon’s goal was to make France a fashion leader. He halted the import of British textiles, revived French lace making, and forbid women to appear at court in the same dress more than twice. 

Paris February 2020: Just a few steps from Napoleon’s elaborate tomb in The Hôtel des Invalides, this year’s International Automobile Festival was staged. 

Now in its 33rd year, the “Fashion week of the Motor Car” brings together the greatest international  designers, and the most beautiful concept cars, under a white tented 32,000 ft. venue with theatrical lighting, a champagne bar and wall to wall $$$$$.

Highlights of this year’s edition: the vote for the most beautiful car of the year,  which the public could take part in, the awarding of the festival’s major prizes, and the exhibition of more than twenty concept cars and car designs. This is a big opportunity for the top companies to unveil the latest versions of their vehicles, some of which will never be produced.

I would not say I am a car aficionado, but I do love to look at cool cars and can appreciate beauty in design.

When our friends Robert and Jean invited us to tag along with them to the exhibition, we couldn’t resist. It was a chilly but clear day in Paris and the sun was shining on the distinctive gold dome of the Hôtel des Invalides.  As we made our way to the outdoor exhibit, through the museums and war galleries, then passing the final resting place of Napoleon, I couldn’t help wonder what the Emperor might have thought about a conceptual automobile exhibit at his door step. 

The Bonaparte quote “Imagination rules the world” is the perfect statement about a design competition of participating international companies like Bentley, BMW, Aston Martin, Mercedes, and Land Rover. Napoleon remains a ruler of style for the ages. I think he would be thrilled!

 

 

 

Categories: Arts + Culture, History

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