Philobiblon: A Lady of Quality on post-Napoleonic France

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Lady of Quality on post-Napoleonic France

Miss Frances Williams Wynn is today talking about Baron Dominique-Vivant Denon, an antiquarian who did much to establish the Louvre, and who sounds like rather a decent bloke:

Denon genuinely liked women: for the rest of his long life--he would die in 1825 [born 1747] --he corresponded with a Venetian woman of letters with whom he had enjoyed a passionate affair while in his thirties and forties. He adapted a medieval reliquary to hold, among other "relics," a lock of the hair of Agnès Sorel, the famously beautiful mistress of Charles V. His attraction to the salon of Josephine de Beauharnais, however, was probably prompted by ambition as much as by pleasure in good conversation, and in 1798 Vivant Denon was off to Egypt with Bonaparte.

Miss Wiliams Wynn is also being rather likeable, lamenting the damage done to Paris by war and political upheaval: "one looks not only at the Louvre, which the fate of war has stripped of its finest ornaments, but at the various collections, at the Jardin des Plantes, which from neglect and want of encouragement have suffered nearly as much; when, most of all, one looks at what was the Musee des Monumens, now totally destroyed and dispersed by bigotry".


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home