Napoleon Bonaparte treasures - 6abc Loves the Arts

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
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August 2, 2015 -- Thomas Evans was born in West Philadelphia, but he moved to Paris where he treated the French Court of Napoleon, III and many of the royal courts of Europe. For his services, he was lavished with gifts of art.

The exhibit at Penn's Arthur Ross Gallery is Evan's personal collection-more than 130 paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewelry and decorative arts-all gifts of gratitude.

"He became famous for being very gentle and very skillful and, given that, then he was on demand for a lot of dental calls to most of the kings and queens of Europe," says Denis Kinane, Dean of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

"The nobility in France could not give him money," explains Lynn Marsden-Atlass, Director of Penn's Arthur Ross Gallery, "so the European Royalty would give him instead gifts."

Treating kings and queens made Evans a wealthy man and he left his entire estate to Penn to create a dental school that would be "second to none."

"Plus he gave us this collection," says Kinane.

The collection was displayed for decades at the dental school's original building at 40th & Spruce, built on the site of the Evans family home. But when Penn expanded its dental program in the late 1960's, the works were spread all over campus.

"Some of this stuff was in, let's say, less auspicious positions within the school and now been brought together and become a fantastic exhibition in this gallery," says Kinane.

"It's sort of like we opened up a trunk and we haven't seen these things in 48 years," says Marsden-Atlass who says Penn brought the works back together for a special exhibition to celebrate the Centennial anniversary of what remains the dental school's flagship building.

"We've put them in a new context, in a new light, and we have interactive material. We have an audio tour. I think people have just been amazed and enchanted."

Courtly Treasures is on view through November 8th and is free and open to the public.