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Picturing a World

Napoleon III

Emperor Napoleon III might not be anyone's choice as companion on a Summer Adventure, but he provided worlds of anecdotal material during his reign and he'll take us back into Where the Light Falls. At Cornelia Renick’s house, Maestro Hippolyte Grandcourt regales a lunch gathering with a story about a model who stood in for him while the many official portraits required by an empire were being painted. This anecdote was my way of glancing back at France’s glittering Second Empire (1852–1870), which haunted French memory in the first decades of the succeeding Third Republic (1870–1940).
It was Napoleon III who remade Paris through the able administration of Baron Haussmann and took the nation into the disastrous Franco-Prussian War. That war cost him his throne, lost the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to Prussia, and subjected Paris to a ruinous siege. The World’s Fair of 1878 was held to celebrate full repayment of war reparations imposed by Prussia. These are not major themes in Where the Light Falls, yet bits and pieces come up from time to time since all historic periods necessarily carry with them remains of the past.
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