History, Colonial Conquest and Empire: Louis-Philippe's Musée Historique & Horace Vernet's Battle Paintings of the French Occupation of Algeria
MetadataShow full item record
The construction of the Musée Historique at Versailles and the colonial conquest of Algeria were two concurrent projects of national concern that spanned the July Monarchy (1830-1848), the period of Louis-Philippe d'Orléans's political administration. Louis-Philippe commissioned the history painter, Horace Vernet, to represent significant battles of the Algerian campaign to decorate three rooms in the Versailles museum, collectively titled the salles d'Afrique (African rooms). In this thesis, I argue that Vernet's Algerian battle scenes connect the Versailles historical-museological program with the colonial conquest of Algeria along aesthetic and ideological lines. Vernet's battle scenes functioned as propaganda, articulating the July Monarchy's imperial ambitions. In this respect, they invoked the legacy of Napoleon and the First Empire (1804-1815). Installed in the Versailles museum, they were also complicit in Louis-Philippe's project of writing history visually and inserting the Orléans chapter into the epic of French civic and martial glory embodied in the Musée Historique.