France's national army museum has recreated the home where Napoleon lived his final years, bringing furniture and belongings from the remote Atlantic Island of St. Helena to Paris for the first time since he was exiled there 200 years ago.
The exhibition that opens Wednesday offers a flavor of the atmosphere of the damp, rat-infested Longwood House, where the emperor spent his last years as a prisoner of the British government, surrounded by books and souvenirs.
In total, 240 pieces of art, pieces of furniture, objects and documents are exhibited, including Napoleon's bath tub, his camp bed, his uniform and his famous hat, the "bicorne." Longwood House was very simply furnished but Napoleon "brought about 50 boxes of personal objects, some remarkable works" including precious Sevres porcelain, said Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, one of the curators.
Visitors can get a glimpse of "the exile of a sovereign: a poor place and some splendid souvenirs", he said.
They also can discover more intimate items, such as Napoleon's dressing gown, underwear and slippers. The exhibition features videos of Longwood House, which has belonged to the French state since France bought it in 1858. After the Paris exhibition closes on July 24, history lovers will have to make the trip to St. Helena to visit Napoleon's last home.
The first airport on the tiny British island in the middle of the South Atlantic opens next month.
Napoleon lived on St Helena island with an entourage of about 20 people from 1815 until his death in 1821.
In the first years of exile he spent much of his time writing his memoirs. But "from 1818, Napoleon did not have illusions any more," Dancoisne-Martineau said. "From time to time he had some small bursts of activity, not to write but to do gardening."