In this two hour introductory lecture we will dive into the sacking suffered by Italy during the Napoleonic rule and how the return of treasures after the commander’s defeat set a model for museums today. Carried out over twenty years, from 1797 until the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Napoleonic looting represents the largest movement of works of art in history.
In Italy in particular, Napoléon’s looting was practically boundless, with the Pope himself being obliged to pay the cost of transporting manuscripts and works of art to Paris. We will also explore the damage done and the (widely violated) treaties such as the Treaty of Tolentino between Revolutionary France and the Papal States, which will be the historical framework that will set into motion the monstrous losses suffered by the Italian states during the various phases of Napoléon’s epic .
Key Concepts Covered:
➣ Napoléon’s looting of Italian art and its role in the creation of the Louvre.
➣ How Napoléon used France’ peace treaties to legitimise his ravenous and methodical looting, changing works of art from war trophies to war tributes.
➣ Napoleon sought to ‘link himself to these works of genius’ and to justify artistic plunder by invoking ‘the aims of the Enlightenment.’
➣ A brief discussion and rediscovery of (often little known) masterpieces destined to remain forever for exile in France.
Stefano Alessandrini is a forensic archaeologist who has served for many years as a consultant to Italy’s Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali and the country’s Avvocatura di Stato. Presently, he serves as an expert consultant to the Tribunale Penale di Roma and assists members of the Italian Senate. Stefano has taught at the Scuola Superiore S. Anna in Pisa and the Scuola Superiore LIMES in Milan and is a key advisor both for ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate Program and the Association’s Transnational Crime Mapping Project, which assists law enforcement and public prosecutors. Author of the book “Italian cultural diplomacy for the return of goods in exile” Dottor Alessandrini understands that the first step in successfully bringing an object back home, is promoting good relations between country partners and in understanding that successes come when there is strong cooperation between judicial authorities, law enforcement and heritage experts, all of whom, working collaboratively together are able to bring plundered antiquities and works of art back home, even in cold cases seemingly long forgotten.
What we will explore
How Napoléon understood that the French kings had used art and architecture to aggrandise themselves and to build the image of political power.
How the 1815 cultural repatriation was the first major important act of restitution in modern times.
A few of the some 600 paintings and sculptures Napoléon stole from Italy justifying their plunder by invoking “the aims of the Enlightenment”.
Why only (roughly) half of the Italian paintings that Napoleon took were returned to Italy and why that leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of Italians that lingers to this day.
How People Are Reacting
I took this online course as an introduction to the topic when the COVID pandemic prevented me from attending ARCA’s PG Cert program in Italy. The course gave me an exciting baseline introduction and I look forward to taking their summer professional training program next year.
As a university student taking courses in organized crime and terrorism, I wanted to understand better how art intersects with these more well known types of criminal behaviors. Professor Tijhuis and Professor Albertson gave me an excellent overview and I look forward to seeing what other courses on the subject ARCA develops.