Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Ban on Export of "Napoleon Death Mask"

The Independent 13th November, 2013

Apparently the Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey has been swayed by the advice of Ms Leslie Webster and has put a temporary block on the export of the rather dubious Boys death mask of Napoleon:

The sense that you are in the presence of Napoleon is very strong. There are many grandiose portraits, as well as contemporary British caricatures of this great and controversial figure, but this deathbed image speaks far more directly to us – here we see the man himself, and sense his charisma, even in death. (1)

The Independent trots out the usual claim about Boys and Napoleon of which there is not a shred of evidence, but does sensibly attribute that claim to the auction house that sold the mask:

Rev Boys played chess with Napoleon and brought several mementos of him when he returned to England, according to Bonhams .

It will be interesting to see if anyone comes up with the money. I can't really see the reason for doing so, particularly since the other Napoleon death mask allegedly made for Rev Boys on St Helena, the Sankey mask, is in the country.


1. Ms Leslie Webster as quoted in The Independent , November 13th 2013.


Albert Benhamou said...

This whole saga of Boys masks is grotesque. Public money should not be spent on artifacts probably made by fraudsters about 100 years ago (conveniently for the 100th anniversary of Napoleon's death). It is a shame that public institutions would prefer to believe auction houses (which only have the goal to make a good sale) rather than historical facts that prove them wrong.

John Tyrrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Tyrrell said...

It hadn't even ocurred to me that public money might be used for this. If a private collector wants to waste their money that is of course their privilege, but public Arts money is in very short supply at present.

Anonymous said...

Bruno Roy-Henry recently opened a Petition to the French President on Avaaz:

It's about a skin fragment of Napoleon I. and their Y-DNA. Issued in a museum in France. So far it has been denied, but the funds are there. It should answer the question, that the one who was exhumed in 1840 in St. Helena is really Napoleon I.

Here the Petition and please subscribe.

John Tyrrell said...

I am not sure that I fully understand this comment, but nevertheless am at a loss to see why anyone would doubt that the body lying in Les Invalides is that of Napoleon I.