Both as First Consul and then as Emperor, Napoleon was determined to restore the relationship between the seat of power and the Catholic Church, which was observed by the vast majority of the population. In 1801, a Concordat was signed with the Holy See. The becalmed relations between Church and State rekindled the prosperity of religious silverwork, which would find its ideal proponent in the figure of Cahier. Cahier earned the title of fournisseur breveté du grand aumônier de la Maison de l’Empereur [official supplier to the high chaplain of the Emperor’s Household], addressing the needs of the regime’s various palace chapels.
The chalice shown here consists of a silver gilt cup placed in a false cup made of silver, the whole supported by a silver foot. The ornamentation is relegated for the most part to these two elements, and uses the symbols of the Eucharist, the sheaves of wheat – i.e. the bread, the body of Christ – and the vine – i.e., the wine, his blood.
What is particularly interesting about this piece is the inscription on the base of the chalice. Originally, it read “imperial chapel,” but the qualifier was scratched out. This intervention presumably dates to the advent of the Restoration, when Louis XVIII assumed the throne after the fall of the Empire. Determined to erase every single trace of the overthrown regime, the new monarchy, which reinvested the French palaces and had to use the same objects, showed itself to be particularly strict in its policy of damnatio memoriae as far as Napoleon was concerned.