Conference Alert: Napoleon's Legacy

Napoleon’s Legacy.
The Development of National Museums in Europe, c. 1794-1830

International conference
Organized by the Huizinga Research Institute of Cultural History (Amsterdam) and the Institute for Museum Research (Berlin).

Thursday, 31 January - Saturday, 2 February 2008

Agnietenkapel, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231 and
University Library (Doelenzaal), Singel 425, Universiteit van Amsterdam

The French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars had a major impact on European museums. Between 1794 and 1813 enormous quantities of artworks, natural specimens, scientific objects, books and manuscripts from collections in the conquered areas in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria and Spain were transported to Paris by the French armies. During a relatively short period of 15 years the general public had the opportunity to admire an overview of what, for the first time in history, might be labelled ‘European heritage’, exhibited in the Louvre and the Musée d’histoire naturelle. These outstanding French museums made a great impression on the visitors and (museum) officials from abroad but at the same time evoked criticism and strengthened the need for the countries which had been robbed of their artistic and scientific treasures to create their own national museums. In this atmosphere it was only logical that after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo (1815) the Allied Powers reclaimed their artistic and scientific collections. When some of the confiscated objects returned to their places of origin, their arrival back home formed an extra stimulus for the (re)institution of public museums, in Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, Vienna, Rome, Milan and Parma, for example.

The conference Napoleon’s Legacy. The Development of National Museums in Europe, c. 1794-1830 focuses on this enormous shift in the European ‘museum landscape’. The central question is: how did various European countries in this period, stimulated by these confiscations and subsequent restitutions, design and disseminate the image of a ‘national culture’ through their museums. By employing an international comparative approach in studying this process it will be possible to examine national variations against the background of international patterns. This museological turning point will be addressed on three levels: the ‘looting’ process, the Paris museums, and restitution and after (see program below).

For more information contact Sanja Zivojnovic: 0031 (0)20 525 3503;


Thursday, 31 January (17.00-19.30)

Opening by Floris Cohen, chairman of the Huizinga Institute

ROBERT SCHELLER (professor emeritus Universiteit van Amsterdam):
Keynote lecture, title to be announced.

Introduction by Ellinoor Bergvelt, Debora Meijers and Lieske Tibbe

Welcome drinks.

Friday, 1 February (9.30-17.30)

1. The ‘Looting’ Process

a. Criteria for Selection

DANIELA GALLO (Université de Grenoble)
The Musée Napoléon’s Galerie des antiques: a new proposal for the history of ancient sculpture?

MARIA DE LOS SANTOS GARCÍA FELGUERA (Universidad Complutense Madrid):
The looting of Spanish art and the first ideas about the creation of a public museum in Madrid before the arrival of Napoleon’s army.

b. Protest or Acceptance?

FLORENCE PIETERS (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
The looting of natural history collections in the Netherlands.

2. French Museums (Paris and its Satellites)

a. Conservation, restoration and modes of display

DOMINIQUE POULOT (Université Paris 1)
Restoration in the Paris museums: from revolutionary metaphor to art business.

FRANS GRIJZENHOUT (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
title to be announced

b. National/international reception

ANDREW McCLELLAN (Tufts University, Medford)
Public museums and the death of art, c. 1800. Early published reactions to the Napoleonic Louvre.

The creation of French satellite-museums in Mainz, Geneva and Brussels.

MIRJAM HOIJTINK (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
Collecting Egypt in 19th-century Europe: a matter of national distinction.

Saturday, 2 February (9.30-17.00)

3. Restitution and after

GIUSEPPE BERTINI (Università degli Studi di Parma)
Works of art from Parma in Paris during Napoleon’s time and their restitution.

MONICA PRETI-HAMARD (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
“La destruction du musée est devenue un monument historique [Destroying the museum has become a historic monument]”: The restitution of the works of art seen by the Louvre’s employees (1815-1816).

ANNIE JOURDAN (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
A national tragedy in Restoration France: the return of the foreign works of art to their countries of origin.

DONNA MEHOS (Amsterdam)
Transforming natural treasures into national heritage: retrieving naturalia from the Paris museums.

ELSA VAN WEZEL (Institute for Museum Research, Berlin)
Denon’s Louvre and Schinkel’s Altes Museum: war trophy museum versus peace memorial.

ADRIAN VON BUTTLAR (Technische Universität, Berlin)
The museum and the city – Schinkel’s and Klenze’s contributions to the autonomy of civil culture.


BÉNÉDICTE SAVOY (Technische Universität Berlin)
title to be announced

Concluding remarks by BERNARD GRAF, director of the Institute for Museum Research, Berlin


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