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Napoléon and Marie-Louise's wedding.

Napoléon and Marie-Louise's wedding.

Banquet du mariage de Napoléon 1er et de Marie-Louise, le 2 avril 1810 aux Tuileries – Alexandre Dufay dit Casanova

After divorcing Joséphine, Napoleon marries Marie-Louise, daughter of Francis I of Austria. The young woman’s future is sacrificed by her father for the good of the state. She has, originally, no desire to marry the French emperor. But Napoleon knows how to work his charms on women, and his legendary gallantry finally seduces the young archduchess.

The marriage is a grand affair, taking place on April 2 1810. To end the religious ceremony, a splendid banquet is thrown for the guests at the Palais des Tuileries, in an Antiquity style decor, typical of Napoleon’s taste. The feast only lasts 20 small minutes and unfolds in a muted atmosphere. Only the emperor is allowed to start a conversation. In his painting, Alexandre Dufay manages to grasp and render this solemnity. All the guests have their gazes fixed on the centre table. As if hanging on to Napoleon’s every word, who is needless to say situated at the centre of the painting with his wife. Lit up by six huge girandoles in the shape of winged women, the table reflects the Emperor’s taste for splendour. One can catch a glimpse of his famous Grand Vermeil dining set, which at the time counted over a thousand pieces.

Alexandre Dufay’s piece is a perfect rendering of Napoleon’s personality. Of his inclination for the Antique style and sumptuous diners, as well as of his strong sense of etiquette (the guests each occupy a precise place) and all his presence…