As soon as the Consulate period started, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) became aware of the importance of having his portrait shown to the French people. Thus, he initiated the edification of his own legend. All the supports were used, from sculptures to snuff boxes and fans.
The multiplicity of objects bearing the effigy of the Emperor or representing imperial symbols constituted an extraordinary tool of propaganda for the Napoleonic legend. During the Restoration, however, Bonapartists were forced to hide and prepare their revenge, spreading more and more seditious objects. The Emperor’s death in 1821 made him less dangerous in the eyes of Royalists and copies representing his main actions once again multiplied.
The Second Empire (1852) made the imperial legend official with commissions of sculptures installed in public squares and paintings exhibited in museums. Although the Second Empire reestablished the official propaganda, the fall of the regime in 1870 put an end to the celebration of Napoleon for 20 years. Nationalist fervor rose again in the 1890s and since then, he has not ceased to be a heroic figure.
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