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As Befits a Legend

Building a Tomb for Napoleon, 1840–1861

European & World History

One of the most important funerary monuments in Europe is the tomb of Napoleon, built in the Church of the Invalides in Paris between 1840 and 1861.  As Befits a Legend is the first comprehensive examination of its construction process, historical context, and political and social meanings.  It also is the only work published in English about this unique structure.

Michael Paul Driskel’s study, based on extensive archival research in France, documents the problems inherent in building the appropriate monument for such a controversial figure and the public debate it generated.  Following a detailed and illuminating account of the range of proposals put forward, Driskel concludes that the form of the structure represents a symbolic mediation of conflicting demands.

Louis-Tullis Visconti, a major Parisian architect who was officially commissioned for the project, is the subject of intensive scrutiny to determine the nature of his personal contribution to the design, as well as his relationship with the many sculptors involved in the collective construction process.  Here Driskel offers a significant contribution to the sociology of architecture and to the question of what “authorship” means in an undertaking of this kind.

As Befits a Legend bridges the disciplines of history and art history and will appeal to historians of architecture, sculpture, social and cultural history, and those fascinated with the history and legend of Napoleon.  Nearly 100 photographs of 19th-centure statuary, drawings, and lithographs complement the text.

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