The Oriental Legacy of Napoleon

The Wallraf Munseum in Cologne exhibits the drawings of Jean-Baptiste Jean-Baptiste Lepère (1761-1844), a treasure that has rested almost in hiding for 200 years. The presentation will be flanked by modern historical documentation, objets trouvés from Ancient Egypt, and exhibits from Napoleon’s day. Lepère was architect and Egyptologist, who accompanied Napoleon and became the foremost architectural draughtsman on the expedition in 1798. Inspired by the high culture he encountered in such foreign parts, he dedicated himself with a passion to the world of the pharaohs. He captured their temples, sculptures and hieroglyphs on paper with a meticulousness matched only by their atmosphere. Of his hundreds of views, many were done on a large scale. As Napoleon set off in 1798 to conduct his Egyptian campaign, he was accompanied not only by soldiers but also a host of scientists and artists. Apart from strategy and politics, this “expedition” was also concerned with the exploration, documentation und evaluation of a fascinating country. The approach they took ranged from archaeology to natural history, and the findings appeared in a gigantic publication, Description de l’Égypte (Description of Egypt). The first of ten volumes appeared 200 years ago. Napoleon put together a commission of 151 scientists and Lepère became a prominent member, dealing with ancient Egyptian architecture. The obelisk on the Place de la Concorde bears his signature.