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Two Napoleon Bonaparte Artifacts from the Tennessee State Museum on Loan to Clinton Presidential Center

Napoleon Death Mask and Portrait by John C. Grimes Part of Louisiana Purchase Exhibit
Wednesday, January 31, 2018 | 10:34am
Napoleon Death Mask and John C. Grimes Portrait

For Immediate Release

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — January 31, 2018 — Two items from the Tennessee Historical Society Collection at the Tennessee State Museum will be on loan to the Clinton Presidential Center this February and March for an exhibit on the Louisiana Purchase. The two items, a Napoleon Bonaparte death mask and a portrait of Napoleon by John C. Grimes, will be on display February 2-March 4, 2018 at the Clinton Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of The Great Expedition: Exploring the Louisiana Purchase and its Impact on Arkansas. The exhibit is part of the Clinton Center’s annual program, Fusion: Arts and Humanities Arkansas, which promotes heritage and culture and celebrates human achievement by weaving the arts and humanities together. In addition to viewing the exhibition, Fusion program attendees will have the opportunity to engage with content-area experts and observe performances that will bring a new perspective on the history of the Louisiana Purchase.

The exhibit will feature three original Louisiana Purchase Treaty documents from the National Archives and Records Administration, including the Exchange Copy of the Convention for Payment of sums due to U.S. citizens signed by Napoleon Bonaparte; the American Original of the Treaty of Cession signed by Robert Livingston, Barbé-Marbois, and James Monroe; and the American Original of the Convention for Payment of 60 million francs signed by Robert Livingston, Barbé-Marbois, and James Monroe. Additionally, objects on loan from Ouachita Baptist University including a journal and compass used by William Dunbar and George Hunter, whose expedition of Louisiana and Arkansas yielded the most reliable map of the region at that time, will be included in the exhibition.

During Napoleon’s time, death masks of leaders cast from a mixture of wax or plaster were customary. Subsequent masks were often cast from the original. The first cast of Bonaparte was made by Dr. Francois Antommarchi approximately 40 hours after Napoleon's death on St. Helena. The Tennessee Historical Society’s death mask dates to 1841 and was likely reproduced at the time Napoleon's remains were returned to France in 1840. Memorial objects of this type would have been very popular at that time. Mrs. Jane Marshall donated the mask to the Tennessee Historical Society, after she received it from Count Clauzel Bertrand, Marshal of France. It was exhibited as part of Preserving Our Stories: 150 Years of The Tennessee Historical Society at the Tennessee State Museum (September 23, 1999 to January 30, 2000) before traveling to nine other venues throughout the state. It was also exhibited at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas (April 15, 2003 - June 15, 2003).

The portrait of Napoleon by John C. Grimes dates from about 1830. It is a copy based on an earlier portrait by Ralph E. W. Earl. Earl had copied his portrait from one by François Pascal Simon Gérard portrait, in Paris, in 1815. It was presented to the Tennessee Historical Society in September 1858 by Capt. Thomas Claiborne.

“These two pieces contribute to the story of Tennessee and its place in history, and they highlight the importance of the Tennessee Historical Society, which still actively pursues its mission,” says Dan Pomeroy, Tennessee State Museum director of collections. “The Historical Society’s holdings formed the beginnings of the State Museum’s collection and it’s always significant when items such as these can be loaned and exhibited to contribute to a larger story about America.”

“Alongside the original Louisiana Purchase documents, the Napoleon Bonaparte death mask and portrait by John C. Grimes will be remarkable additions to this exhibition,” said Stephanie S. Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation. “Together with objects from the Dunbar-Hunter exploration, The Great Expedition: Exploring the Louisiana Purchase and its Impact on Arkansas, will tell a local story of the greatest international land acquisition in history.”

Download Images:

John C. Grimes portrait

Napoleon Death Mask Front 

Napoleon Death Mask Side

About the Tennessee State Museum

The Tennessee State Museum was established by law in 1937 “to bring together the various collections of articles, specimens, and relics now owned by the State under one divisional head,” and “to provide for a transfer of exhibits wherever they may be.”

Today, the Tennessee State Museum is housed in the James K. Polk building in downtown Nashville, where it has been for nearly 35 years. Gov. Bill Haslam proposed and the Tennessee General Assembly approved $120 million in the FY-2015-16 budget to build a new home for the Tennessee State Museum on the Bicentennial Mall to maximize the state’s rich history by creating a state-of-the-art educational asset and tourist attraction for the state. The governor also announced that $40 million would be raised in private funds for the project.

A 140,000 square foot facility is being built on the northwest corner of the Bicentennial Mall at the corner of Rosa Parks Boulevard and Jefferson Street to tell Tennessee’s story in a way that the museum is unable to do in its current and outdated location by showcasing one-of-a-kind artifacts, art and historical documents in an interactive and engaging way.

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About the William J. Clinton Presidential Center

The William J. Clinton Presidential Center is the home of the Little Rock offices of the Clinton Foundation; the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum; the Clinton School of Public Service, the first institution in the nation to offer a Master of Public Service (MPS) degree; and is a managing partner of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a national bipartisan and executive-style leadership development initiative. Additionally, the Clinton Center is a world-class educational and cultural venue offering a variety of educational programs, special events, exhibitions, and lectures, presenting a unique perspective of the work – past, present, and future – of the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton.

Learn more at, on Facebook, and @ClintonCenter on Twitter and Instagram.

For further information contact:
Joe Pagetta
Director of Communications
Direct: 615-741-5134

Tennessee State Museum
Ashley Howell, Executive Director

1000 Rosa L. Parks Blvd
Nashville, TN 37208
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