Windmill Villa Napoleon

Napoleon’s residence on Elba in Villa Windmill

Napoleon’s residence Villa Windmill Napoleone is located between Fortress Stella and Fortress Falcone (Portoferraio) and is so named for the ancient presence of windmills. It became a national museum after being one of Napoleon’s two residences on the island. The emperor arrived on Elba in May 1814 with his mother, his sister Paolina and a small court. Inside the Villa we find many of their objects, outside a welcoming garden with a beautiful view of the coast.

Napoleon’s residence in Elba Villa Windmill, after the heavy defeats suffered in the war of the sixth coalition which saw Great Britain, the Russian Empire, Prussia, Sweden, the Austrian Empire and some German states allied, Napoleon is forced to abdicate (April 4, 1814 ); with the treaty of Fontainebleau the enemy powers recognized him the personal title of Emperor, an annuity and sovereignty over Elba.

On 3 May 1814 Napoleon lands in Portoferraio enthusiastically welcomed by the population, the flag of Elba (red band on a white field) is raised on Forte Stella the three Napoleonic golden bees.

Villa of the Mills will become Napoleon’s residence on Elba

For Napoleon, Villa of Mulini will become his residence on the island, so called for the existing Mills here, the official residence, erected in a strategic position between the Forti Stella and Forte Falcone a>.

Elba Napoleon Villa of Mulini Portoferraio

The building, seat of the military engineers, was modified by the architect Paolo Bargigli who created the hall on the first floor and the internal changes that make it respond to the needs of the Emperor; with the demolition of some buildings, the area destined to be a garden will be created.

Upon his departure on February 26, 1815, the emperor donated the Palazzina to the town of Portoferraio but Ferdinand III of Lorraine, reinstated on the throne in 1815, assigned it to the residence of the Grand Ducal Governor; after the unification of Italy it became the seat of the military engineers. A long dispute between the Municipality of Portoferraio and the State ended in 1880 with the definitive assignment of the villa to the State, and of the library to the municipality.

Used for a long time for improper use, only in 1928 was it designated as a museum and furnished with furniture coming in part from Villa San Martino in part from new acquisitions that restored the atmosphere of an imperial residence to the rooms.

Starting from the 17th century, most of the young people of the rich European aristocracy embarked on a long journey to Europe in order to perfect their education. Italy with its monuments and its landscapes becomes an obligatory stop on the Grand Tour which included Rome, Naples and Campi Flegrel, Pompeii and Herculaneum, Sicily. Through the observation of natural phenomena, visits to monuments, museums and recent archaeological discoveries, young people get to know the ancient world, refine their taste, come into contact with different uses and customs that intrigue and stimulate study.

Frequently the observations on art and nature elaborated upon returning home, give life to travel diaries in which the authors write down the routes and stages describing their characteristics and contributing to the notoriety of places which in turn become popular destinations for other travelers. .

Napoleon’s arrival and stay on Elba at the Villa of Mulini, from May 1814 to February of the following year, sparked the attention of the whole world on the island which, part of the Napoleonic empire, had already been the subject of study: we recall for example Voyage àIsle d’Elbe by the French naturalist Arsenne Thiébaut de Berneaud (Sedan 1777-Paris 1850) published in Paris in 1808, in which the island was described from the point of view of natural history, of the customs of the inhabitants, population, monuments and trade and where the first geographical map of modern Elba is published.

Villa of Windmill Garden and Falcone Fortress Elba Napoleon

In 1814, to respond to the request for information on the island inhabited by the Emperor, Tour trough the Island of Elba by sir Richard Coli Hoare (1758-1838) was published, 25 years later. Italy, had visited the island of Elba in 1789.

Published by Bulmer, the booklet is illustrated by eight etchings by John Smith (1749-1831) taken from the drawings made during the tour by Richard Colt Hoare, now partly preserved in the Brffish Library in London, and has a short text of ‘ update ‘entitled: Bonaparte and his family.

….. I could not then imagine that, after twenty-five years, this lonely island would be chosen as the exile of the already famous Napoleon Bonaparte, a circumstance that will certainly attract the attention of travelers in the future and perhaps it will induce many to visit the island “.

Richard Coli Hoare from the introduction to Tour trough the Island of Elba, 1814

In general, the varied and detailed phases of Napoleon’s” triumphs “are well known. But the details of the location of his” exile “have hitherto been rare and imperfect. The purpose of this publication is precisely to fill this lacuna by means of drawings and descriptions ‘. John Smith, letter to the readers of Tour trough the Island of Elba, 1814

In the entrance hall and antechamber of the house, at the time of Napoleon’s stay, the volume Tour trough the Island of Elba by sir Richard Colt Hoare in the 1814 edition and the 8 engravings collected in the folder with the title Elbese are exhibited Scenery; a series of Picturesque views in the Island of Elba, formerly the residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, in the second edition (London, 1828). The engravings were made by John Linnell (17921 882), John Powell (1780 c. – post 1833) and Letitia Byrne, (1779 – 1849).

The party hall

Reception Hall Villa of Windmill Elba Napoleon

The large living room has two views: the garden, which offers a splendid view of the sea, and the access road to the house. The ceiling decoration simulates a decorated velarium; at the corners there are figures of winged victories, weapons and trophies that reproduce the usual motifs of the taste of the early nineteenth century. At the center is the elegant Empire-style crystal drop chandelier. The room is dominated by the mahogany wood bed with gilt bronze applications; four columns crowned by capitals on which golden swans rest, support the canopy with crimson silk curtains. It is a parade bed brought from Paris by Madame Mère, Maria Letizia Ramolino. The placement of the parade bed in the party hall was intended to underline the prestige and personal power achieved. Two marble busts are placed on twin gray marble columns: The female bust, traditionally identified with the portrait of Paolina Borghese, Napoleon’s sister and the Portrait of Napoleon I, traditionally attributed to Francois Rude (Dijon 1774-Paris 1855).

Dining room of the Emperor

Dining room Villaof Windmill Elba Napoleon

In the center of the wall, a folding desk in mahogany with gilded bronzes; the processing of the plaques with zither, swans and griffins is particularly refined. Examples similar to this are preserved in Florence and Rome and suggest as author Jean-Baptiste Youf, a famous French cabinetmaker who worked for a long time for Napoleon’s sister, Elisa, princess of Lucca and Piombino from 1805 to 1809 and Grand Duchess of Tuscany from 1809 to 1814. The French-made centerpiece consists of a porcelain basket supported by two kneeling female figures. Also French is the refined mahogany feather table with finely chiseled gilt bronze sphinx heads mounted on wheels *. Beautifully made consoles in carved and gilded wood with fasces and marble top, also dating back to the early nineteenth century. On the walls, on the right, a mid-nineteenth-century copy of the famous painting by Jacque-Louis David Napoleon at San Bernardo and General Poniatowskij dì Horace Vernet, on the left. The furnishings are completed by two images relating to 18 Brumaio and the six gondola chairs from the Napoleonic era, in lacquered wood and partly carved and gilded.

* Livorno Foundation loan

Bathroom of the Emperor – Le lif parapluie

Elba Napoleon field bed Villa of Windmill

On display in this room, originally intended as the Emperor’s bathroom, is a folding bed very popular at the time of Napoleon who had ordered a large number of them, patented by the French blacksmith Marie-Jean Desouches (1764-1828) who had perfected the folding bed already existing from the eighteenth century, the bed, called ‘ lit parapluie ‘, is made of polished iron and consists of a single piece capable of being folded thanks to a system of hinges. Desouches had his workshop in Paris in rue de Vemeuil 18 starting from 1788 and its conception was noticed by Napoleon, first Consul, since 1804 when this ingenious invention was patented by the craftsman. The bed, conceived to be an easily transportable structure, but firm enough to face a military expedition, was composed of two pieces: the frame and the upper part of the canopy, linked together by hinges that made it very easy to assemble. As a net Desouches replaced the leather straps with a taut canvas and elastic straps. The canopy structure was designed to hold a cotton mosquito net and silk taffefas curtains. The bed was made up of superimposed mattresses, according to some documents the Emperor used three mattresses, of horsehair, wool and feather, a pillow, a feather bed and blankets. Napoleon never separated from the `parapluie ‘bed even when it was hosted in furnished residences. He had this type of bed in the castle of Fontainebleau and in Longwood House, on the island of Sant ‘Elena, and Napoleon died on that bed, as evidenced by testimonies and engravings. Maria Luisa of Habsburg Lorraine (1791-1847), wife of the Emperor, had also ordered similar beds for the king of Rome and their entourage and the bed exhibited here comes from the inheritance of the sovereign, complete with leather cases. and the travel trunk bearing the title of empress and queen referring to Maria Luisa (therefore prior to 1814).

Napoleon’s bedroom at the Villa of Windmill

bedroom Villa of Windmill Elba

This room was Napoleon’s bedroom, located on the side of the garden overlooking the sea. Mobilier, the inventory drawn up at the behest of the emperor in 1814, reports that in the room there was the Portrait encadré représentant SM : the Empress el e roi de Rome , who Napoleon had brought to Elba from the palace of Fontainebleau. Today in the room there is a copy of the famous portrait of Pierre Paul Prud’hon depicting the King of Rome sleeping, only legitimate son and sole heir of Napoleon . While waiting for a new layout, the room temporarily houses a living room from the First Empire period considered among the best examples of Italian manufacture of the early nineteenth century. All the furnishings, in carved, painted and gilded wood, were covered with silk in the colors indicated in the 1814 Mobilier. In the center of the room there is an octagonal “gallery” table, made of mahogany, which rests on eight pairs of legs decorated with small female heads and which presents, in the center of the platform, a Victory in gilded terracotta. The centerpiece, in gilded bronze, of French manufacture, is made up of a basket supported by two kneeling female figures. A large crystal chandelier lights up the room. On the walls, the large nineteenth-century framed print depicting Adieux de Fontainebleau (20 Avril 1814), signed Vernet 1825 and a pair of nineteenth-century engravings en pendant depicting the Battaille de Waterloo * and the Presentation du Roi de Rome aux officiers de la garde National de Paris. The two engravings complete the furniture. On the white marble fireplace rests a large Empire mirror surmounted by an elaborate decoration with cornucopias, olive and oak leaves and a pair of doves. The bronze andirons have the shape of serpent coils. The empire wardrobe in mahogany wood has a mirror door and candle holder arms.

* Frediani-Lucca loan

Napoleon’s private apartments at the Villa of Windmill

Villa sofa by Windmill Elba

After passing by the two service areas, the room of the personal valet and the wardrobe, we visit Napoleon’s private apartment at the Villa dei Mulini, overlooking the garden in which the Emperor usually walked. The apartment consists of a bathroom, where the camp bed is exposed, bedroom, cabinet de travail and library. In the library is kept, in bookstores from the mid-nineteenth century, most of the books that Napoleon brought with him to Elba from Fontainebleau to which were added, during the months spent in Portoferraio, other volumes sent to him by his uncle Cardinal Fesch or purchased by himself. Emperor. The topics are very varied and reflect the many curiosities and interests cultivated by Napoleon: French history, theatrical texts, agricultural manuals, philosophy texts.

Library of the Emperor

Napoleon's library Villa of Windmill Elba

When leaving France for Elban exile, the emperor Napoleon I, a cultured and curious man as well as an expert bibliophile, wanted to bring with him some of the texts most dear to him, personally selecting them from the very rich library of Fontainebleau. Many of these volumes were brought back to France by Napoleon at the end of the exile but, among those that still keep in the museum, there are valuable works by French authors (the complete work Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau, the essays by Montaigne, the verses Racine), alongside Italian authors (Boccaccio, Ariosto, Algarotti, Verri), but also the Bible and many texts of history, moral and natural sciences as well as the favorite Greek and Latin classics. The precious Moroccan bindings frequently carry the imperial symbols or the famous N imprinted in gold on the plate and on the spine with, in some cases, the inscription Fontainebleau or S.T. Cloud indicating the origin of the respective imperial palaces. In the center of the room, a mahogany desk with nine drawers, a green leather top and a pull-out undertop features bronze decorations that recall that of the armchair made of mahogany and leather. The lectern in gilded wood with the Imperial eagle is inspired by the original in the Schonbrunn palace in Vienna. The recurring imperial symbol of the eagle is also found on the armrests of the two armchairs that complete the furnishings of this room. On the fireplace the color print made by A.S.Terreni Général Vie »of de the Isian of Elba, Porto Ferraio , The Town & amp; Castle, now the retreat of N. Bonaparte, and four rare color engravings of Views of Portoferraio, made in honor of Lord Spencer and dated April 1814.

Paolina Bonaparte Borghese

The Cloak of Pauline Bonaparte sister of Napoleon Villa of Windmill Elba
The cloak, made of very light green velvet (color was reserved for the title of Princess) with gold embroidery

Known for her great charm, flattered in living rooms and courts, unfaithful in love and portrayed by great artists of the time such as Lefèvre, Berthon and Canova who represents her as Vénus victorieuse (Rome Galleria Borghese) and who they exalted the ideal of classical beauty, Maria Paoletta, later Pauline, is the closest sister to Napoleon. She joined the Emperor on Elba in June 1814, permanently since November, and settled in the rooms dedicated to her by Napoleon in the Villa dei Mulini, creating a lively and pleasant court atmosphere. It is therefore very likely that she brought with her from France and used on festive occasions, the precious ceremonial cloak with which she is also portrayed in various paintings together with her sisters Caroline and Élisa. The mantle, of refined French workmanship, is made of very light green velvet, this color was reserved for the title of Princess and is embellished with refined lamellar gold embroidery of olive branches that develop along the edges and floral buds in the center; it was worn over a clear robe and tight under the breast.

His wife Maria Luisa and his sister Paolina

Bedroom of Paolina Bonaparte sister of Napoleon Villa dei Mulini Elba

Prepared to initially welcome the Emperor’s wife, Maria Luisa, who never joined her consort, the apartment prepared by Napoleon at the Villa dei Mulini was then destined for his sister Paolina who arrived on Elba in October 1814; it is a suite consisting of a bedroom, a boudoir and a living room. In the bedroom there is the bed that tradition indicates as belonging to Napoleon who probably used it before the arrival of his sister Paolina ; is a fine example of early 19th century furniture probably made in Lombardy, consisting of four supports in the shape of columns decorated with gilded friezes with palmettes, volutes, meanders and bees, a heraldic emblem chosen by Napoleon as a symbol of industriousness and hope, both for being the oldest representative sign of the sovereigns of France. In the adjoining living room the coat of Paolina is exhibited, an elegant and fundamental accessory of Empire style clothing; it is in cut velvet green silk preciously embroidered in gold with an olive leaf motif.

Apartments of Paolina

Paolina Bonaparte apartment Napoleon's sister Villa dei Mulini Elba

The sofa and the two armchairs have a decorative motif that is found in the drawings made between 1805 and 1817 for some furniture in the Palazzo Reale in Milan. Note the armrests of the dolphin-shaped armchairs. Above the sofa an engraving signed by H. Vernet 1840. The large mirror has gilded “ candelabra ” decorations on the pilasters and, at the top, a cornucopia, quiver and laurel leaves, ornamental motifs usual in the neoclassical period . The small sculpture in white Carrara marble reproduces the head of the statue of the “Dancer” by Antonio Canova. In this small vestibule there are two Lucca-made chairs in carved and gilded wood. The wall table of Tuscan manufacture of the late eighteenth century has a top supported by a band decorated with small festoons and in the center a mask with a female face. On the wall on the right hangs a large mirror of Lucca manufacture with a rich carved and gilded frame and a mask at the top.


360° View

360 ° view from the Windmill Villa Napoleon

How to reach the Villa Windmill Napoleon

The Villa dei Mulini di Napoleone is located above the De Laugier building adjacent to Forte Stella, the highest point of the historic center of Portoferraio , entered from Porta a Mare , we follow to the Town Hall where the Salita Napoleon remains clearly visible. We have to cover it all, at the end we find ourselves at the Napoleon’s Villa.

Location of the Villa Windmill

Museums in Portoferraio

Civic Archaeological Museum of Linguella : loc.Linguella tel. +39 0565 937370
Foresiana Municipal Art Gallery: Napoleon climb tel. +39 0565 937371
Villa Romana of the Caves: loc. The caves

Napoleonic Museums: Villa of the Windmill tel. +39 0565 915846
Villa di S. Martino tel. +39 0565 914688

Fortress Falcone
Fortress Stella

Volterraio Castle : Info Park Tel. +39 0565 908231