Napoleon - An Intimate Portrait

About the Collector

Pierre-Jean Chalençon is a recognized authority for his expertise in antiquities from Napoléon I and his Imperial court. Mr. Chalençon has amassed an exceptional collection associated with the Emperor: personal effects, books from the palace libraries, paintings, engravings, sculptures and drawings. Mr. Chalençon's interest in Napoléon began when he was seven years old and received an educational cartoon book on the story of Napoléon. He liked the book so much that he pestered his father to take them to visit Joséphine's beloved home at Malmaison, the Army Museum in Paris and the Imperial Palace at Fontainebleau. “Seeing the things did the rest,” Mr. Chalençon said. “That's where my passion for all things Napoleonic comes from. But I never once thought that I would end up collecting like I do today.”

When he was 17, Pierre-Jean Chalençon sold his motor scooter to buy Napoléon's letter announcing his victory against the Prussians at the Battle of Jena in 1806. Today, his collection includes more than 500 objects. Pieces from the collection have been loaned to museums all over the world including exhibitions in London, Tokyo, Brazil, Australia, and France, however, Napoléon An Intimate Portrait represents the first time the collection has been toured in North America. Utilizing his vast knowledge of both the period and the collection, Pierre-Jean Chalençon is serving as Head Curator.

Mr. Chalençon has devoted his life to the Emperor, and is a noted Napoléon expert and author. He admits his obsession with the showman-general whom he regards as history's greatest strategist and civilizing force. It is the private man, however, that fascinates Mr. Chalençon, as evidenced by Napoléon's toothpaste, toothpicks, hair locks and clothing that are part of his collection. He recently acquired a flask of the rose water that the Emperor carried in his campaign baggage.

“Napoléon is a self-made man who brought glory to France. He is a genius who has a vision of order and seeks to create something . . . He is the first European,” he said.

Mr. Chalençon is president of the Cercle France-Napoléon. He lectures, organizes exhibitions and devotes himself to collecting more Napoleana. He collaborated on Napoléon: The Immortal Emperor with David Chanteranne and Gerard Gengembre published in 2003 by Vendome Press. He co-authored the recently published Le Sacre de Napoléon with Patrick Rambaud. He resides in Paris, France.

Images © Chalençon
A Traveling Exhibition from Russell Etling Company (c) 2011