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What is the value--to classics scholars and students--of a set of paintings which has been languishing in virtual obscurity (as far as the west is concerned) in a Russian museum for nearly two centuries? This set of paintings, done in the ceramic medium by French artists of the 19th century, represents an addition to the known imagery of Greek mythology and this book is the vehicle which brings it to the attention of the western world.

The facts raise further questions: What role did a set of dessert plates --which was a part of Napoleon's private collections-- play in the diplomatic relations between France and Russia in the early nineteenth century? Why would he take them from the privacy of the Tuileries Palace and send them as a gift to Tsar Alexander I, the ruler of Russia? Read about this extraordinary historical episode in the pages of "Napoleon, Russia, and the Olympian Gods".

When Professor Albert R. Baca saw this collection in the Kremlin's Armory Museum, he immediately recognized its rare importance to classics scholars in the west. Exhaustive research confirmed his original appraisal and here he presents what most non-Muscovites will regard as new, exquisite and priceless imagery of the Gods of mythology.

Napoleon, Russia and the Olympian Gods
An Illustrated Guide to Greek Mythology

A sample page illustrating and describing the story of Cupid and Psyche.

The collection and the cabinet in the Kremlin's Armory Museum which houses it. The book contains the layout plan so that a visitor, standing before this display, may identify the god(s) of mythology painted on each plate and read the story depicted.

You may also use our email link for questions or comments to the author,
Professor Baca or to his collaborator and publisher, Jules Brenner.

80 pp; 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" (approx.); soft cover; 52 illustrations.

Editorial musings on Greek mythology:

There is nothing shy or retiring in the behavior of this pantheon. Witness the events leading to the conception of Hercules, son of Jupiter: "Jupiter decided one day to make love to Alcmena, the wife of the Theban general Amphitryon..." The resulting union produced the babe, Hercules. But then, there was a catch: Jupiter's offspring could only be divine if suckled by Juno. And so, on page 20... "in this scene Minerva has brought the infant Hercules to Juno who bares her breast for him."

But, despite an effect of titillation in some of the stories, the true value of this book lies in its comprehensive collection of illustrations and interpretive commentary. With them for guidance, the reader may arrive at a better understanding of the Greek and Roman societies out of which the pantheon was created.

I tend to come away from these stories with an impression of very human writers attempting to explain natural events and to control (or, at least, influence) human ones. The effort seems unsophisticated to the point of transparency, sometimes humorously so, though one must have some respect for the probability that the celestial network was held very seriously by at least some Greeks and Romans in classical times.

Perhaps Greek mythology doesn't endure as a religion into any modern society because it exposes more about supposed celestial beings than it preserves the mystery necessary to deities. To modern sensibilities it is obvious myth but also storytelling that is truly rich, entertaining and a wondrous inspiration for artists through the ages.

Thanks to the brilliance of the French artists who painted these plates, and to Professor Baca's description of how each one captures a critical moment in the mythology, his book imparts a new level of imagery and understanding to the Greek pantheon, all the while holding the reader fascinated by its history, its complexities, and its drama.

                                                                                       ~~ Jules Brenner, Publisher

Some comments from scholars:

"Little known in the West, the Olympic Service is a unique collection of Sèvres porcelain adorned with beautiful mythological scenes and figures. Professor Baca has performed a real service in calling our attention to this collection in his book on Napoleon's diplomatic gift to Tsar Alexander I of Russia."

~~ Dr. Robert apRoberts, English (emeritus), CSUN

"It is really surprising that so unique a series as the Olympic Service has not, up to now, attracted more attention--especially that someone in France would not previously have published a study of this cultural treasure. Congratulations [to Dr. Baca] for being the first to recognize its great merit."

~~ Prof. Udo Scholz, Chairman of the Department of Classics, University of Wuerzburg, Germany

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"Napoleon, Russia and the Olympian Gods" is no longer in print.
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