In Ajaccio, does Napoleon still make money?

Evenings Napoleonwhich ended on Tuesday evening, symbolizes the continued enthusiasm around it the emperor. Admiring this man definitely translates into issues memorialsbut also in cases commercial.

2021 was a special year for fans Napoleon Bonaparte.

Read also: interview. Jean-Christophe Napoleon: “My name is for France and for every Frenchman”

The bicentenary of his death served as an excuse for organizing many events: exhibitions, book publishing, special issue editions in magazines … “We broke all records in 2021, despite health restrictions and the absence of foreign visitors. This enthusiasm has not diminished much”says Thierry Lintz, director of the Napoleon Foundation. “People are willing to pay to tell about Napoleon, there is real interest from the French.”The historian continues.

Despite controversies that may have arisen over the question of memory, Napoleon was still a salesman, and Ajaccio’s merchants profited from the fallout from this madness.

Several cultural proposals were opened in a context severely constrained by Covid and thus managed to do the same, such as “Napoleon’s Cave”, an institution that broadcasts a film retracing the history of the Emperor. “We haven’t reached our full potential yet, but it’s working fine”Jose Canigiani, rejoices at the origin of the project.

In July, the “Cave” attendance doubled compared to the previous year.

In the shop next door, emperor codes have a myriad of derivative products: fans, pillows, molds, feathers, figurines or even T-shirts, the best product. Napoleon always attracts, whether we like him or notthe manager notes, while the client places an order for a streaming cover with the N of Napoleon.

If some busts of Pasquale Paoli are also on sale, they are far from meeting the success of the emperor-inspired derivative products, due to the lesser known fame outside Corsica of this other great island figure.

The son of the country that overshadowed the other island characters

A note shared by Luce Leca, of the Contamì cultural goods store on Rue Fesch. Proponents of the store are keen to tell the story of Corsica as a whole, not just the story of the emperor. “Napoleon didn’t bring much in the end to Corsica”Art lovers say.

However, bestsellers belong to the First Consul: the rubber duck “Duck Napo”, the Playmobil was released to mark the bicentenary of the Emperor’s death and especially the twisted “Napo” by Laurent Sylvani, an Ajaccian artist. His series of autographed and numbered pieces sold out to Bucharest, Los Angeles, or even Dubai, for models selling for up to €4,500 each. All these things come from the imagination of pop art “Allowing everyone to take ownership of the story”confirms Mathieu Bertrand, shop assistant, who voluntarily claims this non-elite dimension. “80% of our prices are less than 25 euros”he insists.

It is enough to attract a heterogeneous audience, consisting of both tourists and collectors.

Objects captured in millions of euros

On the auction side, we find the same success for things related to Napoleon or the imperial era. “We thought the prices would go down because the top collectors disappeared, but really no, that’s not trueon Thierry Lintz of the Napoleon Foundation. There is a whole group of ordinary buyers who show a real interest in the Emperor, but also in the art and furniture of the time. We’re seeing a boom in this market, which doesn’t seem to be abating.”

The Empires Store was one of the first to offer Napoleon-inspired items.  - Florent Sylvini

In September 2021, A ready-to-wear hat was given to the emperor 1.2 million euros at Sotheby’s in Paris, the second highest price for a Napoleon body.

So, Napoleon, is he still at the top of his rankings? Jerome, of Le Broc’ Atypique rue Fesch, offers more subtle observations: “There is a kind of context and psychological adjustment about the Maison Bonaparte. When the visitors leave the house, they buy a lot of Napoleon souvenirs. Next to the Maison Bonaparte, I will probably sell twice as many Napoleon things”the person who represents the emperor for him accounts for only about 1% of his sales. “Goldurack is more successful than Napoleon”He jokes, pointing to the giant clone of a space robot sitting at the entrance to a flea market. For him, the Napoleon market is still a niche market, half of his customers come from abroad. “Those who love Napoleon, oddly enough, are the English, are fascinated by character”He pursues a scrap dealer, himself passionate about the emperor.

Read also: After buying an anonymous bust at auction, he learned that it is from a statue of the young Napoleon Bonaparte

French tourists will be less impressed by the first consul: “People come to visit Corsica, they are more interested in the beaches. Corsica people prefer Pascal Pauli. And then Napoleon didn’t spend much time in Ajaccio in the end.”

Napoleon, a brand name and marketing strategy

Nevertheless, the emperor was erected as a true symbol of Ajaccio, the “imperial city”, through a well-thought-out marketing campaign.

Napoleon was transformed into a brand image, following a supposed political will. As Napoleon sells, the argument is reused and rejected in all possible ways: we no longer count the number of downtown food establishments whose name refers to the illustrious child of the country. Valerie Santarelli, who opened her own Empires store in 2006, at a time when she “Napoleon has disappeared from Ajaccio”takes a critical look at the current abundance of emperor-inspired derivative objects: “There are only signs selling Napoleon. Before, there was none and now there is only that, it has become Napoleon.”

Read also: Ajaccio: Napoleon’s star up for auction at the Campo dell’Oro

The designer takes a bleak look at this tendency to abuse and excessive commercialization, and she is associated with conveying tales about Napoleon, at the same time with her handmade products. “We see everything and anything, but we cannot put bees and the figure of Napoleon everywhere”he switches between the store owner, who has mainly local customers.

If commercial excesses can make people grumble, we cannot deny the real interest that still appears in the first French emperor and which lasted for more than two centuries.

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