The Objects

1st Jun 1815

Source: © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor (The Rothschild Collection); photo by University of Central England Digital Services.

The Champ de Mai

Contributed by: Phillippa Plock

Fast to print, and simple to read, this is an entry ticket for the grand ceremony to celebrate Napoleon’s return, which took place before a huge altar. It is now part of the 'Tableaux de la Revolution' collected by Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898). A rare survival, the ticket evokes the majesty and tragedy of the Emperor’s comeback in 1815.

The ceremony of the Champ de Mai, at which Napoleon proclaimed the Acte additionnel to the constitution (see entry for 22 April), emulated the festivities of ancient Rome. On the ticket, the fasces, laurels and eagle recall both Roman symbols and Napoleon’s coronation regalia from December 1804. The putti and cornucopias of Abundance add a festive air, perhaps not fulfilled by the solemn speeches. At the top, the crowned ‘N’ and glory echo messages of God’s acceptance, symbolised by Napoleon’s oath taken on the Gospels. Used on the 1 June, just weeks before Napoleon’s defeat, the ticket must have appealed to Ferdinand as a reminder of the ephemeral nature of power, as much as a souvenir of fleeting history. In his 1896 book, Personal Characteristics of French History, Ferdinand de Rothschild used anecdotes to reflect the shifting ‘drama’ of this period. He ended his book with a sketch of the ‘genius’ Napoleon, a figure he relates to the famous tragic actor Talma, a motif foreshadowing events to come.

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