Two new RHLT documentaries on Napoleonic Era themes

BonapARTE – Napoleon: Art and Propaganda

The documentary ‘BonapARTE – Napoleon: Art and Propaganda’ investigates the captivating relationship between Napoleon Bonaparte and the arts of his time. From Ludwig van Beethoven's ‘Bonaparte’ symphony to the Neoclassical movement in France, Napoleon's impact on the cultural landscape of 19th-century Europe cannot be overstated. Through his patronage and manipulation of Art as a propaganda tool, the Emperor of the French decisively influenced the aesthetic ideals of the time.

Introducing and helping to explain works such as the Eroica symphony, by Beethoven, ‘The Coronation of Josephine and the Sacre of Napoleon’, by David, or ‘Napoleon as Mars’, by Canova, this third episode of the Linhas com História ('Lines with History') series unveils Bonaparte's legacy in the arts, shedding light on the interaction between power, art and propaganda at the dawn of the 19th century, in a document aimed at both art and history enthusiasts. English subtitles are available in the YouTube version.

Napoleonaea imperialis – Botanical Invasions in the Napoleonic Era

Responding to an initiative of the European Federation of Napoleonic Cities, of which it is a member, the Historic Route of the Lines of Torres Vedras dedicated the fourth episode of the series Linhas com História ('Lines with History') to the third edition of the European Week ‘Destination Napoléon’, which had as its theme ‘ Botany and the development of green spaces in the time of Napoleon’. Investigating the relationship between the great scientific voyages of the time and the Bonaparte couple, on the one hand, and between these and the spread of exotic botanical species in Portugal and Europe, on the other, we show you some lesser-known – and even surprising – aspects of the botanical epic of the early 19th century.

Napoleonaea imperialis – Botanical Invasions in the Napoleonic Era’ seeks to shed light on the fascinating world of botanical exploration in the early 19th century, the Century of Science. The documentary takes us into the past to help understand the present, exploring the introduction in Portugal and Europe of exotic plant species, the impact on native ecosystems and the measures taken to protect biodiversity.

Enriched with extraordinary images from the time, this episode of Linhas com História transports us to Paris in the 1800s, where Captain Nicolas Baudin proposes to Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul, a scientific expedition to the region of present-day Australia: the objective is to explore the then unknown territory and collect its plants, animals and minerals. Nobody could imagine, however, the degree of difficulties, tensions and even tragedies that the endeavour would suffer.

The documentary presents an unusual and rarely divulged perspective of the genesis of the great southern country, the meeting of the aborigines with the Europeans and the fate of the navigator who most contributed to the ‘botanical invasions’ of species now so common in Europe as the eucalyptus or the mimosa: Nicolas Baudin, the intractable commander who turned out to have a very particular opinion on European states taking possession of already inhabited territories. Investigated is also the role of Joséphine Bonaparte in the importation and dissemination of exotic – and also invasive – species in the Europe of her time.

The wonderful gardens of the Greater Lisbon region – and, by extension, of the Lines of Torres Vedras – are not forgotten: on the contrary, we wanted to show how they drank, and still drink today, from the great river of scientific explorations of yesteryear, without forgetting the consequences for the oldest Portuguese botanical garden, that of Ajuda, of the French Invasions and the nominally ‘scientific’ looting of specimens that these promoted.

Napoleonaea imperialis’ is, in short, an informative and visually engaging documentary that investigates the complex relationship between botanical exploration, invasive species and biodiversity conservation.

English subtitles are available for the YouTube versions of all the episodes in this series.

Nicolas Baudin, commander of the French expedition to New Holland, drawn by Nicolas Petit on board the Géographe.