In 1840 Labrouste plays an essential role in a political spectacle in which the stakes are high for the faltering regime of Louis Philippe: the return of Napoleon’s ashes that will be buried in the church of Les Invalides. With Louis Visconti, Labrouste is invited to extend the connection of urban spaces and to design architectural markers that lie along the route of the procession. He also designs the funeral chariot: a sarcophagus set on a large shield worn by caryatids – in short, a monument to the expectations of Louis Philippe, eager to present Napoleon as a military hero rather than as a head of fallen state. The ensemble is placed on a pedestal, dressed with festoons and large swags, directly echoing the motifs of the tomb of Caecilia Metella, along the Via Appia where the Romans of antiquity gathered to greet their dead and where their contemporary descendants gathered to enjoy a shaded passeggiata.
Excerpted from Labrouste (1801-1875), architecte : La structure mise en lumière, 2012