Napoleon Salon: Dinner in the First Empire


Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne (Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1806)

Dilettante Army and Thank You for Coming extend an invitation to dine on Saturday evening, the fourth of February, at six o’clock in the evening. Dinner will be served at Thank You for Coming, an experimental food and art space in Los Angeles (3416 Glendale Blvd in Los Angeles, CA).

This salon, inspired by state banquets of Napoleon Bonaparte in his Tuileries palace, will facilitate group discussions about the court of the First Empire and explore how art functions under an authoritarian regime.

Napoleon Bonaparte, a combative, proud, and popular leader, came to power in November of 1799, backed in a surprise coup by fellow reformists looking to make France great again. Over the next 15 years of his reign, he ruthlessly campaigned to extend the French empire, establishing his family members as dynastic rulers of his newly-won assets. Napoleon was a master media strategist: he wrote bulletins to publicize his victories, commissioned favorable newspaper coverage, censored all anti-government voices, and produced propaganda on a massive scale. He especially relied on the spectacle and luxury of the imperial court to consolidate his new position in the world. Funded by the spoils of conquest, his ever-expanding government payroll employed artists and workshops that created statues and paintings of the emperor as well as decorative pieces marked with his personal brand. In this salon dinner, we will discuss the pageantry of the Napoleonic Empire and the people who produced it. Who were they? What did they make? How were they paid?

We will strive to answer these questions over a six-course meal punctuated with brief presentations and trivia rounds.

Tickets to the dinner can be purchased via Thank You for Coming’s website.

Three optional readings that will be relevant to our discussion are available as pdf files:

  • Albert Boime, Art in an Age of Bonapartism 1800-1815 (pp.34-54)
  • Steven Kale, French Salons: High Society and Political Sociability from the Old Regime to the Revolution of 1848 (pp.77-104)
  • Hito Steyerl, “Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy”

To download a zip file of the readings, click here: Napoleon Salon Readings