Archive for November, 2014

Napoelovember: Napoleon and Art

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

Besides being a military leader, a statesman, an Emperor, and a “scientist,” Napoleon was also a patron of the arts.

Or at least, he was an art thief and patron of propaganda.

As for the propaganda, Napoleon employed many artists, including some really great ones, to document his victories and achievements in wildly dramatic and heroic paintings. Neoclassicism was all the rage in Napoleon’s time, in no small part due to the fact that Napoleon was trying to recreate a monumental Empire in the classic sense. Here’s some examples of Napoleonic propaganda art:

Napoleon_at_the_Battle_of_Rivoli Jean-Léon_Gérôme_003 David_-_Napoleon_crossing_the_Alps_-_Malmaison1 Bouchot_-_Le_general_Bonaparte_au_Conseil_des_Cinq-Cents 800px-Napoleon_returned

Quelle dramatique!

In addition, Napoleon expanded the Louvre (renamed the Musée Napoléon during his reign) to hold all of the art he stole during his conquests.

Stole? Yes. Napoleon was the first conqueror of the modern era to make art looting standard practice for a victorious army. Stealing art was a way to make money to support the war effort, and also a way to show the power of the French conquerors to audiences at home and abroad. It made the Louvre home to one of the greatest art collections in the world. Napoleon started his looting in Italy, and continued his work throughout Europe and in Egypt, where he amassed a huge collection of ancient artifacts, including the Rosetta stone, which his archeologists discovered.

Here are just a few of the masterpieces that Napoleon’s forces stole:

Paolo_Veronese_008 Descent_from_the_Cross_(Rembrant) 800px-Horses_of_Basilica_San_Marco_bright 431px-Pompeo_Batoni_003

But turnabout is fair play. When Napoleon lost the war, the British collected his spoils. Rather than finding a home at the Louvre, the majority of Napoleon’s stolen antiquities ended up forming the core of the British Museum in London, where they are to this day.

Adieu Louvre, hello, BM!

Adieu Louvre, hello, BM!

Napolovember: Napoeoddities

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

This month we’re celebrating Napoleon on the PhLog. Here are some odd facts about him:

Contrary to legend, Napoleon wasn’t short. His height is often reported as five foot two, but that was under the French measurement system, which converts to around 5’7”/ 169 centimeters. English propaganda helped promote the idea of a tiny Napoleon, but in fact his height was quite average.

Napoleon’s penis is in the United States. When Napoleon died, the priest who delivered the last rights took a number of Napoleon’s personal effects, plus a few organs after the autopsy, including his penis. The priest’s family held onto the penis until 1916. Eventually it was auctioned off and bought by an American urologist. It is still believed to be in the possession of his family.

Napoleon’s family called him Nabulio.

Napoleon suffered from painful hemorrhoids. For a man who spent much of his life on horseback, this was significant disability, and it may have cost him the battle of Waterloo. He was kept up the night before battle with pain from riding the day before, and was unable to mount a horse to survey his troops and exercise command during the battle.

To this day it’s illegal to name a pig Napoleon in France. As a result, the name of the pig in French editions of Orwell’s Animal Farm is called “Cesar” instead.


Napoleovember: An 18th Century Donald Trump

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

This month we’re celebrating Napoleon on the PhLog.

Napoleon was a man convinced of his own greatness. He won fame and power through military conquest, and his mastery of self-promotion and propaganda culminated in a lavish coronation ceremony, where, about to be crowned Emperor by the Pope, he took the crown into his own hands and crowned himself.

Napoleon loved propaganda. He made Jean-Louis David his official artist. You know, so he could have paintings made of himself like this:


But that is not all that Napoleon did to give himself eternal glory. Napoleon, as the head of state, wanted to be the head of everything.

Napoleon was Italian! So he became the King of Italy.

According to Napoleon, he was a brilliant scientist! So he appointed himself president of the French Academy of Sciences, and demanded an honorary membership of the Scientific Division of the French Institute.

According to Napoleon, he was a brilliant mathematician! There’s a theorem named after him although there’s doubt as to whether he was the one to make the discovery or the one who should be granted the credit for it.

It’s hard to believe today, but Napoleon actually got away with this type of behavior.

Nobel_Prize  TrumpTowerimages

Napoleovember: A Signature Drink

Friday, November 14th, 2014

We’re celebrating Napoleon this month on the PhLog, and given the runaway success of our first signature cocktail (now available in bars and at cocktail parties around the world), we thought we should create a signature drink for Napoleovember. After a night of tinkering, we came up with not one, but two cocktails honoring the great Frenchman.

Our mixing team included our old friends Miriam Leuchter and Mark Sorré, and our new friends Dan Richards and Honi Werner. Guild members Jay Stern and Meg Sweeney Lawless were there to observe, taste, and document the event.

Dan and Honi came prepared, with both a concept and ingredients. Their drink, delicious and pretty much perfect out of the gate, was the NAPOLEONIC COMPLEX. Miriam had a few ideas and a wide range of ingredients to draw from for another drink, and after a bit of tinkering (and with advice and commentary from the group), we ended up with the RUSSIAN WINTER.

Below are recipes and rationales behind the two drinks.



1 dollop muddled cherry preserves
1 oz vodka

This drink is inspired by several parts of Napoleon’s life. The cherry preserves refer to his home island of Corsica, where they grow in abundance (mulberries also grow there, so mulberry preserves are a suitable alternate if you don’t like cherries), and using preserves rather then fresh cherries refers to the art of canning, which was invented to feed Napoleon’s armies. The vodka is naturally a reference to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and the champagne is a final French touch. Napoleon also happened to like champagne.

First, place a dollop of cherry preserves into a champagne flute.


Then add about one ounce of vodka. We used a peach vodka, but a plain vodka would also suffice.


Stir the vodka / preserves combo to muddle the preserves.


Then fill to the top with champagne. Dan and Honi used Gruet – a sparking wine from an old French family. But other champagnes will of course suffice.


This is a refreshing and refined drink.


Notice how the cherry preserves make the bubbles especially active.




3 parts Russian vodka
1 part cassis liqueur
1 shake bitters
splash of cognac
an abundant quantity of crushed ice

It took some tinkering to come up with this recipe. It commemorates Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia, so we used Vodka as the base. Cassis, a French liqueur, makes the whole thing look like a bloody mess (much French blood was spilled in the invasion of Russia), the bitters cut the sweetness (the Russian winter was certainly a bitter experience for Napoleon), and the splash of cognac, while adding a nice fragrance to the drink, refers to the cognac Napoleon rationed to his artillery units. Lastly, abundant crushed ice makes the drink chilly in a way that only a Russian Winter can be.

First, measure out the vodka.

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Add enough cassis to make it all nice and bloody.

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Add a shake of bitters. A little is all you’ll need.


Add a splash of cognac. We used Rémy Martin cognac, which Napoleon drank. He liked cognac. You could also use Rémy Martin’s Napoléon cognac if you feel like spending a little more.


Serve in a tumbler filled to the brim with crushed ice.


Raise a toast to Napoleon (and the Russians)!

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We accompanied our beverages with French cheese, and two dishes Mark Sorré, our chef of the evening, called “savory Napoleons”: loaves of thin pastry dough, one filled with salmon, crème fraîche sour cream, dill, and capers, the other with mushrooms and truffled goat cheese.


But you can enjoy these beverages with all sorts of food. Their balance of acidic and sweet makes them a perfect aperitif or after dinner drink, so they pair well with both savory and sweet.

[Photos by Dan Richards, with a few additional images by Jay Stern. Hand modeling by Miriam Leuchter.]

Napoleovember: All in Napoleon’s Family

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

As befits an Emperor, Napoleon’s rise to power also brought about the rise of his family. This was surprising for a country that had violently rid itself of its monarchy a few years earlier, but once Napoleon was crowned, family rule was once again the way of the land.

Napoleon’s oldest brother Joseph became king of Naples and Sicily, and then of Spain.


Napoleon’s youngest brother Louis was crowned King of Holland.


His son Louis II ascended to the throne following Louis I’s abdication. Louis II only ruled Holland for nine days, but that is still pretty impressive for a five-year-old.


Jérôme, Napoleon’s youngest brother, was named King of Westphalia. Years after Napoleon’s fall, Jérôme’s nephew became president of France, and once again familial nepotism reigned as Jérôme was given the role of first Prince and Count of Montfort.


Elisa was Napoleon’s only sister to be given a crown. She was installed as Princess of Lucca and Piombino, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, and the Countess of Compignano.


Louis-Napoléon, Napoleon’s nephew and heir, was eventually crowned as Napoleon III, and was the last Napoleon to reign as King.


But although the Napoleons lost the throne, the family still treats itself as royalty, with the 28-year-old Jean-Christophe Prince Napoléon as the current heir.


Proving that privileged families tend to hold on to their privilege for generations, the Napoleon family has gone on to high places the world over. There’s even an American branch of the family: Napoleon’s great-nephew (Jérôme’s grandson), Charles Joseph Bonaparte, was Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Navy and Attorney General and went on to found the Bureau of Investigations (now known as the F.B.I.). As a trust buster for Roosevelt and investigator for the Department of Justice, Bonaparte was known as “Charlie the Crook Chaser.”



Napoleovember: Things Named After Napoleon

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Happy Napoleovember! This month on the PhLog, we’re celebrating all things Napoleon.

Today’s post is about THINGS NAMED AFTER NAPOLEON.

Once you start looking for it, you see Napoleon’s name everywhere. Here are just a few things named after him.


Napoleon is said to have loved cognac and even apparently had it rationed to his artillery companies during the Napoleonic Wars. So now cognac companies capitalize off this bit of legend.


The Napoleon, aka mille-feuille, is a staple French pastry now found across the world. But contrary to popular belief, this dessert has nothing to do with the French Emperor. The original name was gateau napolitain after the city of Naples, but it was corrupted into the name Napoleon.


Napoleon was for a time quite popular in the United States. So much so that there are cities named “Napoleon” in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota (pictured above), and Ohio.


The extremely large humphead wrasse is also known as the Napoleonfish. We’re not quite sure why. Perhaps because it looks like it’s wearing a blue hat?


The Napoleon Complex describes a manner of behavior in which a short person (usually a man) attempts to compensate for his short stature through domineering, overly-aggressive behavior. Think Vladimir Putin or Silvio Berlusconi.

The irony of this is that contrary to legend, Napoleon wasn’t actually short (as will be explained in a future post).


Napoleonite, also called corsite (named after the island of Corsica, home to both the rock and Napoleon) and is a variety of diorite.



For a while there everyone was the “Napoleon of such-and-such.” Here’s just a few examples:

P. G. T. Beauregard, the Confederate general, was called “Little Napoleon.”

While Union General George B. McClellan was called “Young Napoleon.”

African warlord Mirambo was called “Napoleon of Central Africa.”

U.S. president James K. Polk was known as “Napoleon of the Stump.”

Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna was called “Napoleon of the West.

Neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot was called “Napoleon of the Neuroses.”

And master criminal Adam Worth (pictured above) was dubbed the “Napoleon of Crime.”

This is a pretty impressive legacy for a general/Emperor who was twice defeated and ended his days disgraced in exile. Especially when you look at what his victorious enemies have named after them.


Napoleovember: Things We Owe to Napoleon

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014


We’re dedicating November on the PhLog to Napoleon Bonaparte, the great French general / dictator / Emperor.

Napoleon embodied the contradictions of the Enlightenment: revolutionary ideals crossed with military rule. He conquered Europe for personal and national gain, but spread a relative degree of liberty and enlightenment thinking across the continent.

Which leads us to the topic of our first post:


Napoleon’s conquest and rule transformed Europe politically, socially, and culturally. Here are just a few developments of the Napoleonic Era which we take for granted today.

Driving on the right

Traffic patterns in Europe, dating back to the Roman era, tended to flow on the left side of the road. But revolutionary France, being contrary, decreed that traffic would flow on the right. Napoleon’s armies traveled down the right side of the road throughout Europe. Countries allied with or conquered by Napoleon shifted traffic patterns to accommodate the French military. This is why people in Great Britain, never conquered by Napoleon, still drive on the left.

Legal equality

The Napoleonic code, instituted across countries that Napoleon occupied, established legal equality among all classes.* Jews were emancipated. The Catholic church in Rome temporarily lost its power. And although many of Napoleon’s reforms (such as the emancipation of the Jews) were rolled back after Napoleon’s defeat, thoughts of freedom remained in the memories of European citizens. And other countries not conquered by Napoleon enacted reforms too. Prussia, for example, felt obligated to do so in order to compete with France.

*Note, this is only true for men. Napoleon rolled back several gains women made in Revolutionary France, such as the right to divorce and to handle money. Sorry, ladies.

The Rosetta Stone

When Napoleon sent his army to Egypt, he also sent along 167 scientists, engineers, artists and scholars to document and study the remains of ancient Egyptian civilization. Mostly this meant plundering, but in the process the French rediscovered the Rosetta Stone, and for the first time in the modern era, hieroglyphics could be decyphered.

The Metric System

He didn’t invent it, but Napoleon made the metric system the standard measuring system on continental Europe.

Canned food

It was a huge challenge to feed Napoleon’s armies as they traveled throughout Europe. Limited food sources meant limited military campaigns. So the French government offered a huge cash prize to any inventor who could devise a means to preserve a large amount of food. Confectioner and brewer Nicholas Appert developed a process of sealing food in glass jars that would prevent them from spoiling (although understanding the reason why this was the case would have to wait for Louis Pasteur 50 years later). Glass was soon replaced with ton or iron canisters (hence the word “can”) and canning was born! In an ironic twist of history, the world would have to wait 30 years until someone got around to inventing the can opener. Luckily, the French army had no shortage of bayonets.

A Napoleonic-era glass food canister.