At the end of a long table, a man and a woman sit with paper crowns atop their head and fake beauty marks on their faces. Behind them, a projection reads “show me what autocracy looks like; this is what autocracy looks like.” On the left is a portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte and on the right a photograph of President Trump.
This pageantry was staged at Los Angeles food and art space Thank You for Coming, to set the scene for a discussion of the role that art plays under an authoritarian regime, and specifically, the way Napoleon used art to bolster his public image.
The one-night-only event, dubbed “Napoleon Salon: Dinner in the First Empire,” was produced through a collaboration between Thank You for Coming and the online publication Dilettante Army. The dinner featured six courses tied to certain historical and sociopolitical facts about Napoleon’s reign, and the culture in which he lived.
At the meal, Dilettante Army editor-in-chief Sara Clugage spoke to guests about Napoleon’s reign, and shared the history behind the food served that evening—including tomato consommé, a lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate after the second course, and beef medallions. The meal ended with pastries, some of which were decorated in Napoleon’s colors.