Embroidered bee from the Grand Mantle worn by Napoleon at his coronation in 1804

Abeille Imperiale du Grand Manteau porté par Napoléon lors de son couronnement en 1804


Picot (embroiderer)

Imperial Bee

Gilt wire

6.3 c 5.0 cm

1804


This bee comes from the Grand Mantle worn by Napoleon at his coronation in the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris in December 1804.

The coronation costumes that Isabey designed echoed with links to the past, and the 'bee' symbol, recently discovered in the tome of Childéric and adopted by Napoleon, was on everything!


Picot, embroiderer to the Emperor and the Empress, was charged with creating almost all the embroideries on the 'petit' (small) and 'grand habillement' (great costume) for the coronation. For the rich borders along the grand mantles and for the bees, he receives the important sum of 15,000 francs.


After the coronation the mantles were first given into the care of ‘Madame Toulet’ but they were soon removed and put on exhibition in the treasury of the cathedral of Notre Dame. We also know, thanks to a letter from the painter David to Talleyrand that the painter borrowed the imperial mantles from Notre Dame to use as reference for his painting of the coronation, which now hangs in the Louvre.


The mantles were kept at Notre Dame until the first Bourbon Restoration in April 1814. At that time the mantles were given by Louis XVIII to the canons of Notre Dame. The canons then decided to sell off the mantles by separating the ermine linings from the velvet, the embroidered crowns and motifs were cut out, and most of the gold bees were sold off by the weight.


This bee is the only known one to have survived.




Exhibition:

‘NAPOLEON - Revolution to Empire 02 June - 07 October 2012 - National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia


Publications:

Le sacre de Napoleon Paris 1804 - Boulogne sur Mer pub. 2011 page 43

Napoleon - Revolution to Empire pub. 2012 page 161



PICOT Bee Front.jpg

Detail of robes from Gerard’s portrait of Napoleon - 1806

Letter of provenance dated December 1814

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