Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Footprints of the Napoleonic Wars - Part 1

It would be difficult to overestimate the impact of the Napoleonic Wars (1804-15) on Europe - indeed on the world. The map of Europe was redrawn and the ideals of the French Revolution led to reforms in many countries. In this blog post and the next, we'll look at some artefacts from our collection which provide a glimpse into the real-life details of historical figures from this very important time.

Napoleon Bonaparte, whose large and charismatic personality inspired many, was both celebrated and feared for his brilliant military strategy. He became the most powerful man in France and instituted many social changes, including the Napoleonic Code, a significant factor in establishing the rule of law in may countries. After being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, the "Emperor or France" ended his days in lonely exile on the British island of St. Helena. One of the Museum's most prized treasures is a pair of Napoleon's socks worn during that six-year period.
Napoleon's socks from his time in exile on St. Helena

Count Walewski's dress shoes reflect a popular fashion of the 1840's
Napoleon's great love for the Polish beauty Countess Marie Walewski was well known. He fondly labelled her his Polish wife and he fathered with her an illegitimate son, Count Alexandre Florian Joseph colonna-Walewski. The Museum has a pair of dress shoes which belonged to Count Walewski. As a publicist, actor, soldier, politician, government minister and ambassador, the Count would have worn shoes such as these on many formal occasions. Much like his father, he took pride in his appearance and in this instance, we see an attention to fashionable trends, evidenced by the silk openwork detailing of the vamp.

Count Colonna-Walewski married his first wife, Catherine Caroline Montagu, daughter of the Ear of Sandwich in 1831. Her elegant pink shoes are part of the Museum's collection and they embody the allure of a delicate countenance. Their rose hue and full bows hint at her fashionable style.

Pink silk shoes belonging to the Count Walewski's first wife, 1830

All images ©2010 Bata Shoe Museum

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