The emperor's apartment gets new clothes

April 21, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

After 18 years of research and restoration by museum staff, the private apartments of Napoleon I at the Chateau de Fontainebleau opened to the public last month. The 800-year-old chateau reflects a variety of exterior styles, especially of the 16th century, and is famous for its 17th-century "horseshoe" exterior staircase.

In contrast to the lush Renaissance and 18th-century magnificence displayed in other parts of the chateau, Napoleon's suite, six small rooms on the first floor, is a superb example of the early 19th-century Empire style.

Original furnishings, including Napoleon's desk, a small leaf table where he would sometimes have breakfast and the pedestal table where Napoleon is said to have signed his abdication in April 1814, are back in place. In the marble bathroom, visitors will see a silver-coated copper bath, a footbath and four mahogany chairs.

Among the most spectacular aspects of the renovation are the dazzling shades of green, red and orange of the brocades and upholstery throughout the suite, including embroidered fabrics featuring flowering laurel branches in Napoleon's bed chamber. The fabrics, based on original designs, were commissioned to artisans in Paris and Lyons. The cost of the interior decorating alone is an estimated $2 million.

The Musee National du Chateau de Fontainebleau, a 50-minute drive south from Paris, is open daily except Tuesday. The entrance fee of $6.40 allows access to the apartments, a Napeolon museum, and a museum of Chinese and Thai artifacts. Information: 60.71.50.70.

Pub Date: 4/21/96

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