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NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, born on August 15, 1769, at Ajaccio; died on May 5, 1821, at St. Helena. When we enumerate all the tortures and sufferings that Napoleon had to undergo and endure at Longwood for five and a half long years from October 16, 1815, we must not forget that the sufferer had not even a friendly and conscientious physician beside him in his last dying distress and agony. Dr. F. Antomarchi, a Gorsican by birth, physician at the Spedale di S. Maria nuova in Florence, Vice-Chancellor of Pisa University, went from Rome to London on the recommendation of Cardinal Fesch and Madame Mere, and thence, as Napoleon’s future physician in ordinary, he set sail for St. Helena, arriving on September 18, 1819. Although Antomarchi made careful entries in his St. Helena diary (published in 1825) regarding his treatment of Napoleon and described his relation with the great Emperor as friendly, his words are not wholly in accordance with the facts. We know from the statements of the devoted Count Montholon that up to a few months before his death Antomarchi believed Napoleon’s illness (cancer of the liver) to have been feigned; nor did he in a general way carry out his important duties with an adequate sense of responsibility. Thus he was often in Jamestown amusing himself with the officers of the English garrison when his illustrious patient had need of him. On the very day of Napoleon’s death Antomarchi took the death mask of the great Emperor after his head had been shaved, for his hair was to be sent to members of his family as a memento. As we gaze at the mask we involuntarily call Heine’s words to mind: “Napoleon was not of the stuff that kings are made of– he was of the marble from which gods are hewn”. The mask remained for the time being in Antomarchi’s possession, and is now in the Musee de 1′armee in Paris, together with other relics of Napoleon. The Musee Carnavalet has a bronze cast of the mask. Napoleon’s body, as is generally known, was transferred from St. Helena to Paris in 1840, and buried on December 15 under the dome of the Invalides. Photograph by Giraudon, Paris.
Black & White Photos and quotations from: Benkard, Ernst, & Green, Margaret (1927). Undying Faces, A Collection of Death Masks. New York, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.