Title: The Rise and Fall of Empire
Collection: The Regency Wardrobe
Garment: early 19th Century male frockcoat in the French style
Materials: Quilling paper strips, FSC accredited paper tablecloth, tissue paper, greaseproof paper, Japanese Mizuhiki rice paper chord, sewing thread, embroidery thread
The decoration on this piece is inspired by the design of a cloak belonging to Napoléon Bonaparte held in the Royal Collection. Its shape reflects that of a military frockcoat belonging to Napoléon held today in The Musée de l'Armée, Paris. Instead of buttons there are toggles in the nature of a Duffle coat; it is believed that the initial influence of what became the duffel coat, may have been the hooded Polish military frock coat, which was developed in the 1820s. Duffle is the name of a town in Belgium. Poles fought alongside Napoléon’s army whilst Brussels was protected by the British.
The toggles are in the shape of bees inspired by a bee clasp believed to have come from another of Napoléon’s own cloaks. The bee was chosen by Napoléon as his personal symbol at the start of his Reign as Emperor of the French.
The text on the surface of the pocket of this frockcoat is taken from a letter by Napoléon to Josephine. On its arm is text from his letter of surrender written to the Prince Regent.
This piece is red because of the blood shed during the Napoleonic wars. Also because, whilst his troops wore blue, Napoléon often appears wearing red in portraits of him that represent his political power and ambition. For example in a portrait from 1802 when he was First Consul, painted by Antoine-Jean Gros, and from 1804 when he crowned himself Emperor of France at Notre-Dame Cathedral, painted by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, titled Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne. The English troops that were victorious over the French in this period would have worn red.
*Please note: Part of the concept of The Regency Wardrobe is that the colour of many of the pieces risks fading over time. This is to reflect:
- research done by The House of Embroidered Paper into Regency era garments and the observation that the colures of their surfaces have faded overtime (as evidenced by looking under seams and inside material crevices).
- how historical events and people fade in the collective memory
- how the power and prestige of civilizations and empires fades overtime.
- how the surfaces of most items we find left to us from history have faded.
Areas of this piece therefore risk changing colour/fading over-time. That is, they may effectively, noticeably, age just as we do.