The Spectacular Second Empire, 1852-1870
A regime denigrated in its time and held in contempt after its fall, the Second Empire was, for a long time, associated with the decadence and superficiality of the "fête impériale". Against a background of social unrest, this prosperous era was a time of splendour and of economic euphoria, of ostentation and numerous lavish celebrations that are worth revisiting.
It was also a period of moral and aesthetic crisis, torn between the old cultural frameworks and the new practices, between increasingly excessive decoration and the quest for the real - conflicting currents that determined much of French artistic creation in the 1850s and 1860s.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary in autumn 2016, the Musée d’Orsay is looking at the entertainments and festivities of the Second Empire and at the different "stages" on which our modernity was invented. The exhibition’s thematic lay-out, with paintings, sculptures, photographs, architectural drawings, objets d’art and jewellery side by side, creates a portrait of this prolific and brilliant era, so rich in contradictions.