The Politics Of Style – The Empire And Beyond

Ike Hay, USA


Napoleon may have been the world’s first great spin meister. He was the first monarch to talk directly to the public, his use of Bulletins and announcements in theatres are but one way he communicated. I wish to illuminate other ways in which Napoleon and others presented to the public their visions of themselves and their politics.


My presentation will reveal how architecture and the decorative arts can be a language; system of signs utilized by the state as a vehicle for propaganda. Design can aid practical politics. An exhibition of the symbols of power may threaten, out of proportion, one’s strength and thus gain power. A massive physical display could convince others that one possessed superior power and was resolved to use it if necessary.


Napoleon felt that he could use artists and architects, designers and craftsmen, to not only proclaim the virtues and goods of his Empire but spread throughout Europe his ideas as well. Visual symbols and images are powerful persuaders and Napoleon uses them to advantage.