Exposition temporaire
“Plon-Plon, un Bonaparte rouge et or” 24 juin – 2 octobre 2023″

  Expeditions : From wars to exploratory trips


As a traveling prince, Plon Plon had a taste for military campaigns, which the large paintings he bequeathed to the city of Ajaccio can attest to. His involvement in the Crimea War, although mocked by his political opponents, was in no way the disaster they made it out to be.

But he found the most enjoyment during scientific expeditions, for example as a supporter of excavations in Egypt or during a daring boat trip far up North.

For all his life, the prince travelled through Europe and the world with a strong appetite for discovery, perhaps because he was upset as a child upon his family’s difficulties in obtaining the precious passports that would allow them to go about freely. The « prince d’aventure » as he liked to call himself, allowed this passion to take more place in his life as the years went by. As the Goncourt brothers put it « travelling (…) is the last resort of people who are unable to engage in love so he replaced love by locomotion. »

He never felt like himself as much as during one of his diplomatic or scientific missions. The most noteworthy trip was no doubt the one that took him from the Northern Sea to Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland in 1856. With Bonaparte’s Egypt campaign always in mind, he was concerned with the scientific merit of his expeditions. He acted as an ethnologist ahead of his time, curious of the landscape as well as the customs and dressing habits of foreigners ; his missions were celebrated as exploits adding to the prestige of the Second Empire.

Plon Plon is the member of the Bonaparte family – at least of his time – who explored the planet the most, from the Mediterranean to the Germanic world, from the recently united Italian states to the United States where he met president Lincoln. As much a scientist as he was a politician or an historian, always gathering photographs, rare items, geological samples even, all of which he exhibited at the Palais-Royal and later donated to the Museum.