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A Peek into Our Collections: Snuffing Out Boney!

Taken together, the objects on display in our inaugural installation tell the story of the world’s great art—from ancient to modern times and across all media. We asked curators to share vignettes about a select group of objects that showcase the breadth and depth of our collections, offering you a window on what will be on view when our new facility opens to the public on November 16.

George Cruikshank, Snuffing Out Boney!, 1814, British, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum.

In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup d’état and declared himself First Consul, or leader of France; five years later, the Senate named him emperor. Napoleon commissioned and skillfully deployed heroic images of himself across the empire, astutely consolidating and propagating his power. But not all images of Napoleon were celebratory. George Cruikshank’s satiric portrayal reveals the contempt that the leader’s military campaigns engendered. This hand-colored etching refers to Napoleon’s failed 1812 Russian Campaign, which weakened the French army and continental dominance. A miniature Napoleon rises from a candlestick, while a Cossack gleefully uses a pair of snuffers to extinguish the Frenchman. The framed image on the wall above this scene depicts a second Cossack snuffing out another diminutive Napoleon.

See other highlighted objects here.

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