The French Emperor comes alive after dark


Everyone loves feeling like a King or Queen. But even better still: an Emperor. From the moment Sarah and I arrive at the National Gallery of Victoria for ‘Art After Dark’, we feel quite special indeed.

A jazz four piece croons in the corner, and the lights are dimmed low. Red spotlights add a touch of drama to the NGV’s grand entrance hall. In the centre, the imposing bust of Napoleon oversees the merriment, the serving of champagne and visitors to his French collection.

A midweek fix of France

If you haven’t yet wandered through the galleries of ‘Napoleon: Revolution to Empire’, then it’s time you did. An excellently-presented collection of treasures awaits. Treasures include coronation gowns, Revolution-era masterpieces, Australian maps and sketches of black swans.


Every Wednesday until the exhibition’s close, the NGV is celebrating ‘Napoleon’ with ‘Art After Dark’. For those of you who would rather avoid the weekend crowds, this is the perfect night to visit.

The French Emperor set to jazz


On the night of our visit, we are treated to the music of the Luke Moller quartet. They present a relaxed and charming brand of jazz – the perfect accompaniment to ‘Napoleon’.

We’re greeted by catering manager Daniel, who immediately wins us over with a glass of Moët et Chandon. How could you not like a man who brings you French champagne?

Fine dining à la française


At his suggestion, we decide to let the chef prepare us a selection from the menu. With so many delicious options to choose from, it was a choice partially prompted by crippling indecision.

As someone who suffers from this regularly, Daniel won me over even more by calmly suggesting we choose, well, everything. And we were not disappointed by our ‘choice’.


First to arrive (after a champagne top-up), was the brioche with smoked salmon and crème fraîche. Then one of the most incredible charcuterie platters I’ve ever seen. Then oysters. Then boeuf bourguignon pour moi, and roast duck with bean cassoulet for Sarah. Oh my…

A truly French evening

Needless to say, we felt like Emperors by the end of the meal. Stuffed, and bulging (metaphorically) from our resplendent red military jackets. Now we just had to digest enough to be able to get on our horses and gallop over the Alps towards home.

Whilst not a typical accompaniment to art exhibitions, it was an atmosphere that complemented ‘Napoleon’ well.


So pencil ‘Art after Dark’ into any Wednesday in your diary and be sure to take the time to visit.

Relax to charming French music, sip some Moët and do as the Emperors do.

Many thanks to Daniel Tootell, Jemma Altmeier and the NGV team for having us at ‘Art After Dark’.

All photographs taken by Hannah Duke.

About the Contributor

Hannah Duke

“I’m a Melbourne-based journalist, editor, photographer, and blogger dreaming of la vie européenne. I love all things French except for the pigeons: film, food, literature, fashion, and I indulge in this passion as often as possible! Find me on Twitter, or Google+.”

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  1. Marianne Kopf Jul 28, 2012 at 8:43 PM - Reply

    Looks great ! What would Napoléon have said of this grandiose scenography? Thanks for sharing that Hannah & Sarah.

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