Orientalism and Napoleonic Wars at Chateau Versailles


The Battle of Pyramids wasn’t fought anywhere near the pyramids; and the painter of this picture, General Louis-François Lejeune, was as far away from that battle-field as those pyramids. The Egyptian Campaign was the first major defeat of Napoleon. That is he could win battles, but the war was lost. Just as lost as was Napoleon himself anytime he set his foot outside the European theater: the French elephant could never figure out how to strike at the English whale, and the fantasy their scuffle generated is commonly known as Orientalism.

Unfortunately our Chateau Versailles pundits had failed to catch this, their exhibition of the paintings by Lejeune this summer bled authenticity like the eleven wounds of the painter-general. They were comparing the maps to the testimonials, completely ignoring Napoleon’s politics. It’s funny how easily boys and girls get blinded by classroom patriotism whenever they examine the bugle-and-drum history of their country.

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