Camp de Châlons: bingo game, circa 1865 (1865) by Alexandre Eugène Bellangé (Painter)Musée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
A loyal and reliable companion
You're in the Camp de Châlons in 1864, at the time of Napoleon III's reign.
Did you spot the animal in this painting?
This pet was able to provide comfort and joy during the difficult times experienced by the soldiers.
Dogs were also useful for keeping guard, announcing dangers, hunting to improve meals, and getting rid of rats and snakes.
On this pair of Japanese stirrups, we can see dragon heads emerging from the clouds. The dragon is one of the oldest mythical creatures imagined by man.
It "exists" in almost all civilizations, and although the details often vary, it is a symbol of absolute power.
Horses were an asset in terms of transport and combat. They symbolize power, grace, and speed in many cultures. Their presence is very much noticeable among the collections here at the musée de l'Armée.
Le Terrible, 16-pound reduced-scale model with coat of arms Le Terrible, 16-pound reduced-scale model with coat of arms (1731)Musée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
A mixture of misleading symbols
The decorations seen on canons reflect the personal choices of the commander, and it is often difficult, even today, to decipher them…
For many cultures, elephants are regarded as divine creatures or are depicted next to a divine force.
They symbolize power as well as luck, peace, prosperity, and intelligence.
Depicted on top of the handle of this hunting dagger, in heraldry—the art of coats of arms and crests—the leopard is a symbol of power and authority.
Remember that in heraldry, the leopard is associated with the British and may be compared to the Russian bear in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
That moves us smoothly onto …
This fur hat, known as the Bearskin, evokes a powerful animal long considered to be the king of the animal kingdom in Europe: the bear (at least, before it was dethroned by the lion or the eagle).
In reality, however, the fur used on this kind of hat is not necessarily bear fur. However, soldiers preferred to believe that it was, as this seemed far more intimidating to their opponents than the cow skin also used to cover this hat.
Japanese armor, 17th century Front viewMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
No lions among us
This Japanese armor from the 17th century is decorated with the arms of the Aki clan. On the armor, there is a shisa, a mythical animal with a lion's head, intended to scare away bad spirits and the opponent.
The shisa on this Japanese armor is raised using an embossed metal technique. In China, this protector is called shi, which means lion.
In Asia, like in the West, the warrior is often adorned with a lion to give the illusion of being able to turn into this powerful animal.
Louis XIV used it a lot in royal symbolism in reference to Ancient Greece and Rome, where roosters were associated with several gods such as Mars or Apollo.
During the French Revolution, the rooster was the protector of the Republic.
Subsequently, during the July Monarchy, it became one if the French symbols used by the regime.
The ram evokes the Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece, which gave its name to the order.
In 1430, Philippe Le Bon (1396–1467), Duke of (the very powerful) Burgundy, created the Order of the Golden Fleece to highlight the chivalrous of the Christian religion, which he sought to defend.
Napoleon I on the Imperial Throne General viewMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
An imperial symbol
The eagle was chosen by Napoleon I as an emblem of the new regime: the First Empire. The term is feminine when it is a heraldic emblem, namely when it relates to emblems.
A symbol of power and majesty, it has also represented numerous empires. For example, in Ancient Rome, the eagle was one of the symbols of the god Jupiter and was used as the insignia of the legions.
Did you know that the eagle and the lion are the most commonly used emblems in the world?
This penguin teddy belonged to French aviator Pégoud.
During World War I, pilots took crazy, unimaginable risks. In addition, to ward off evil and protect themselves from danger, they had rituals that reassured them and kept a mascot or favorite item with them, which formed part of these practices.
L'Hôtel national des Invalides Lapin dans les jardins de l'Hôtel des InvalidesMusée de l'Armée - Hôtel des Invalides
Animals are not only in the museum collections, they are everywhere! And, yes, rabbits have made the garden of the Hôtel des Invalides their home, and cohabit with soldiers and visitors. Adorable, isn't it?
A story written and edited by the teams of the Army Museum.
© Musée de l’Armée