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  • Armstrong

    Neil Armstrong

    He developed a fascination with flight at an early age and earned his student pilot's license when he was 16. In 1947, Armstrong began his studies in aeronautical engineering at Purdue University on a US Navy scholarship.

    His studies, however, were interrupted in 1949 when he was called to serve in the Korean War.  As US Navy pilot, Armstrong flew 78 combat missions during this military conflict.
    He left the service in 1952, and returned to college.
    A few years later, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
    For this government agency he worked in a number of different capacities, including serving as a test pilot and an engineer.

    He married Janet Shearon on January 28, 1956.

    He and his family moved to Houston, Texas, and Armstrong served as the command pilot for his first mission, Gemini VIII.

    Armstrong faced an even bigger challenge in 1969.
    Along with Michael Collins and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, he was part of NASA's first manned mission to the moon. The trio were launched into space on July 16, 1969. Serving as the mission's commander, Armstrong piloted the Lunar Module to the moon's surface on July 20, 1969, with Buzz Aldrin aboard.

    At 10:56 PM, Armstrong exited the Lunar Module.
    He said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," as he made his famous first step on the moon. For about two and a half hours, Armstrong and Aldrin collected samples and conducted experiments.

    Before long, the three Apollo 11 astronauts were given a warm welcome home. Crowds lined the streets of New York City to cheer on the famous heroes who were honored in a ticker-tape parade. Armstrong received numerous awards for his efforts, including the Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

    190.00 €
  • Charlemagne

    He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800. This temporarily made him a rival of the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople. His rule is also associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped define both Western Europe and the Middle Ages. He is numbered as Charles I in the regnal lists of Germany (where he is known as Karl der Große), the Holy Roman Empire, and France.

    The son of King Pepin the Short and Bertrada of Laon, a Frankish queen, he succeeded his father in 768 and co-ruled with his brother Carloman I. The latter got on badly with Charlemagne, but war was prevented by the sudden death of Carloman in 771. Charlemagne continued the policy of his father towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain, to which he was invited by the Muslim governor of Barcelona. Charlemagne was promised several Iberian cities in return for giving military aid to the governor; however, the deal was withdrawn. Subsequently, Charlemagne's retreating army experienced its worst defeat at the hands of the Basques, at the Battle of Roncesvalles (778) (memorialised, although heavily fictionalised, in the Song of Roland). He also campaigned against the peoples to his east, especially the Saxons, and after a protracted war subjected them to his rule. By forcibly converting them to Christianity, he integrated them into his realm and thus paved the way for the later Ottonian dynasty.

    Today he is regarded not only as the founding father of both French and German monarchies, but also as the father of Europe: his empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Romans, and the Carolingian renaissance encouraged the formation of a common European identity.

    128.00 €
  • Général De Gaulle

    Charles De Gaulle

    A veteran of World War I, in the 1920s and 1930s de Gaulle came to the fore as a proponent of mobile armoured divisions, which he considered would become central in modern warfare. During World War II, he reached the temporary rank of Brigadier General, leading one of the few successful armoured counter-attacks during the 1940 Fall of France, and then briefly served in the French government as France was falling. He escaped to Britain and gave a famous radio address, broadcast by the BBC on 18 June 1940, exhorting the French people to resist Nazi Germany and organised the Free French Forces with exiled French officers in Britain. He gradually obtained control of all French colonies—most of which had at first been controlled by the pro-German Vichy regime—and by the time of the liberation of France in 1944 he was heading a government in exile, insisting that France be treated as an independent great power by the other Allies. De Gaulle became prime minister in the French Provisional Government, resigning in 1946 due to political conflicts. After the war he founded his own political party, the RPF. Although he retired from politics in the early 1950s after the RPF's failure to win power, he was voted back to power as prime minister by the French Assembly during the May 1958 crisis. De Gaulle led the writing of a new constitution founding the Fifth Republic, and was elected President of France, an office which now held much greater power than in the Third and Fourth Republics. As President, Charles de Gaulle ended the political chaos that preceded his return to power. A new French currency was issued in January 1960 to control inflation and industrial growth was promoted. Although he initially supported French rule over Algeria, he controversially decided to grant independence to that country, ending an expensive and unpopular war but leaving France divided and having to face down opposition from the white settlers and French military who had originally supported his return to power. De Gaulle oversaw the development of French atomic weapons and promoted a foreign policy independent of U.S. and British influence. He withdrew France from NATO military command although remaining a member of the western allianc and twice vetoed Britain's entry into the European Community. He travelled widely in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world and recognised Communist China. On a visit to Canada he gave encouragement to Quebec Separatism. During his term, de Gaulle also faced controversy and political opposition from Communists and Socialists. Despite having been re-elected as President, this time by direct popular ballot, in 1965, in May 1968 he appeared likely to lose power amidst widespread protests by students and workers, but survived the crisis with an increased majority in the Assembly. However, de Gaulle resigned after losing a referendum in 1969. He is considered by many to be the most influential leader in modern French history.

    94.00 €
  • Victor Hugo

    Victor Hugo was born in Besançon as the son of a army general, who taught young Victor to admire Napoleon as a hero. After the separation of his parents, he was raised and educated in Paris by his mother, where the family settled when Hugo was two. From 1815 to 1818 Hugo attended the Lycée Louis-le Grand in Paris. He began in early adolescence to write verse tragedies and poetry, and translated Virgil. Hugo's first collection of poems, Odes Et Poesies Diverses  gained him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. As a novelist Hugo made his debut with Han D'Islande (1823) followed by Bug-Jargal (1826).
    In 1822 Hugo married Adèle Foucher who was the daughter of an officer at the ministry of war.

    Hugo gained wider fame with his play Hernani (1830) and with his famous historical work The Hunchback of Notre Dame(1831) which became an instant success. Since its appearance in 1831 the story has became part of popular culture. The novel, set in 15th century Paris, tells a moving story of a gypsy girl Esmeralda and the deformed bell ringer, Quasimodo, who loves her.

    In the 1830s Hugo published several volumes of lyric poetry, Hugo's lyrical style was rich, intense and full of powerful sounds and rhythms, and although it followed the bourgeois popular taste of the period it also had bitter personal tones. Among his most ambitious works was an epic poem, "Et nox facta est," ("And There Was Night"), a study of Satan's fall. The poem was never completed.

    In his later life Hugo became involved in politics as a supporter of the republican form of government. After three unsuccessful attempts, Hugo was elected in 1841 to the Académie Francaise. This triumph was shadowed by the death of Hugo's daughter Léopoldine in 1843. It was only after a decade that Hugo again published books. He devoted himself to politics, advocating social justice. After the 1848 revolution, with the formation of the Second Republic, Hugo was elected to the Constitutional Assembly and to the Legislative Assembly.

    When the coup d'état by Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) took place in 1851, Hugo believed his life to be in danger. He fled to Brussels and then to Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel. Hugo's partly voluntary exile lasted 20 years. During this time he wrote at Hauteville House some his best works, including Les Chatimets (1853) and Les Misérables (1862), an epic story about social injustice.

    The political upheaval in France and the proclamation of the Third Republic made Hugo return to France.
    During the period of the Paris Commune, Hugo lived in Brussels, from where he was expelled for sheltering defeated revolutionaries. After a short time of living as a refuge in Luxemburg, he returned to Paris and was elected senator.
    Hugo died in Paris on May 22, 1885.
    He was given a national funeral, attended by two million people, and buried in the Panthéon.

    128.00 €
  • Emperor Napoléon 1st

    Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, the son of Carlo and Letizia  Bonaparte. Through his military exploits and his ruthless efficiency, Napoleon rose from obscurity to become Napoleon I, Empereur des Francais (Emperor of the French). He is both a historical figure and a legend—and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. The events of his life fired the imaginations of great writers, film makers, and playwrights whose works have done much to create the Napoleonic legend.

    Napoleon decided on a military career when he was a child, winning a scholarship to a French military academy at age 14.
    His meteoric rise shocked not only France but all of Europe, and his military conquests threatened the stability of the world.

    Napoleon was one of the greatest military commanders in history. He has also been portrayed as a power hungry conqueror. Napoleon denied those accusations. He argued that he was building a federation of free peoples in a Europe united under a liberal government. But if this was his goal, he intended to achieve it by taking power in his own hands. However, in the states he created, Napoleon granted constitutions, introduced law codes, abolished feudalism, created efficient governments and fostered education, science, literature and the arts.

    Emperor Napoleon proved to be an excellent civil administrator. One of his greatest achievements was his supervision of the revision and collection of French law into codes. The new law codes—seven in number—incorporated some of the freedoms gained by the people of France during the French revolution, including religious toleration and the abolition of serfdom. The most famous of the codes, the Code Napoleon or Code Civil, still forms the basis of French civil law. Napoleon also centralized France's government by appointing prefects to administer regions called departments, into which France was divided.

    While Napoleon believed in government "for" the people, he rejected government "by" the people. His France was a police state with a vast network of secret police and spies. The police shut down plays containing any hint of disagreement or criticism of the government. The press was controlled by the state. It was impossible to express an opinion without Napoleon's approval.

    Napoleon's own opinion of his career is best stated in the following quotation:

    “I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this. I purified the Revolution.”

    94.00 €
  • Jeanne d'Arc

    Joan was born on January 6, 1412, in the village of Domremy to Jacques and Isabelle d'Arc. Joan was the youngest of their five children. While growing up among the fields and pastures of her village, she was called Jeannette but when she entered into her mission, her name was changed to Jeanne, la Pucelle, or Joan, the Maid.

    As a child she was taught domestic skills as well as her religion by her mother. Joan would later say, "As for spinning and sewing, I fear no woman in Rouen." And again, "It was my mother alone who taught me the 'Our Father' and 'Hail Mary' and the 'Creed;' and from none other was I taught my faith."

    From her earliest of years Joan was known for her obedience to her parents, religious fervor, goodness, unselfish generosity and kindness toward her neighbors. Simonin Munier, one of Joan's childhood friends, tells how Joan had nursed him back to health when he was sick. Some of her playmates teased her for being 'too pious.' Others remembered how she would give up her bed to the homeless stranger who came to her father's door asking for shelter.

    Joan was 'like all the others' in her village until her thirteenth year. "When I was about thirteen, I received revelation from Our Lord by a voice which told me to be good and attend church often and that God would help me." She stated that her 'Voices' were Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. At first her 'Voices' came to her two or three times a week but as the time for her mission drew near (five years later), they visited her daily telling her to 'Go into France' to raise the siege of Orleans, conduct the Dauphin Charles to Reims for his crowning and to drive the English from the land.

    Joan went to the neighboring town of Vaucouleurs, which means Valley of many colors. There she spoke to the loyal French governor by the name of Sir Robert de Baudricourt. After many rejections he finally agreed to send her to the Dauphin who at the time was living at the castle of Chinon.

    On the evening of February 23, 1429, she began her mission for God. In the company of six men, she rode through the Gate of France on her way to Chinon. Joan reached this town on March 6th, but was not received by the Dauphin, Charles, until the evening of March 9th.

    After being accepted and approved by a Church council headed by the Archbishop of Reims, Joan was allowed to lead the Dauphin's army. This part of her career was meteoric. She entered Orleans on the evening of April 29th and by May 8th the city had been freed. The Loire campaign started on June 9th and by June 19th the English were driven out of the Loire valley. The march to Reims started on June 29th and by July 17th Charles was crowned King of France in the cathedral of Reims.

    From this time on, for reasons know only to King Charles, the king no longer valued Joan's advice and guidance. She had always told him that God had given her 'a year and a little longer' to accomplish His will but the king seemed to take no notice of it. For almost a year he wasted what time remained to Joan, until in frustration, she left the court. Her last campaign lasted from the middle of March until her capture at the town of Compiegne on May 23rd, 1430. Her 'year and a little longer' was over.

    Abandoned by her king and friends, she started her year of captivity. As a prisoner of the Burgundians she was treated fairly but that all changed when on November 21st, 1430, she was handed over the English. How she survived their harsh treatment of her is a miracle in itself.

    The English not only wanted to kill Joan but they also wanted to discredit King Charles as a false king by having Joan condemned by the Church as a witch and a heretic. To obtain this goal the English used those Church authorities whom they knew to be favorable to them and the staunchest of these was Bishop Cauchon.

    Joan's trial of condemnation lasted from February 21st until May 23rd. She was finally burnt at the stake in Rouen's market square on May 30th, 1431.

    Twenty-five years later the findings of Joan's first trial were overturned and declared 'null and void' by another Church court, who this time was favorable to King Charles. It was not until 1920 that the Church of Rome officially declared Joan to be a saint. Her feast day is celebrated on May 30th.

    128.00 €
  • Clovis

    The founder of the Merovingian dynasty of Frankish kings, Clovis defeated the last Roman ruler in Gaul and conquered various Germanic peoples in what is today France. His conversion to Catholicism (instead of the Arian form of Christianity practiced by many Germanic peoples) would prove a landmark development for the Frankish nation.

    Clovis was the son of the Frankish king Childeric and the Thuringian queen Basina; he succeeded his father as ruler of the Salian Franks in 481. At this time he also had control of other Frankish groups around present-day Belgium. By the time of his death he had consolidated all the Franks under his rule. He took control of the Roman province of Belgica Secunda in 486, the territories of the Alemanni in 496, the lands of the Burgundians in 500, and portions of Visigothic territory in 507.

    Although his Catholic wife Clotilda ultimately convinced Clovis to convert to Catholicism, he was interested for a time in Arian Christianity and was sympathetic to it. His own conversion to Catholicism was personal and not a mass conversion of his peoples (many of whom were already Catholic), but the event had a profound influence on the nation and its relationship to the papacy. Clovis convoked a national Church council at Orléans, in which he participated significantly.

    The Law of the Salian Franks (Pactus Legis Salicae) was a written code that most likely originated during the reign of Clovis. It combined customary law, Roman law and royal edicts, and it followed Christian ideals. Salic Law would influence French and European law for centuries.

    The life and reign of Clovis was chronicled by Bishop Gregory of Tours more than half a century after the death of the king. Recent scholarship has revealed some errors in Gregory's account, but it still stands as an important history and biography of the great Frankish leader.

    The name Clovis would later evolve into the name "Louis," the most popular name for French kings.

    128.00 €
  • Louis XIV

    Louis XIV, known as the Sun King (French: le Roi Soleil), was King of France and of Navarre.

    His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days, and is the longest documented reign of any European monarch.

    Louis began personally governing France in 1661 after the death of his prime minister, the Italian Cardinal Mazarin.
    An adherent of the theory of the divine right of kings, which advocates the divine origin and lack of temporal restraint of monarchical rule, Louis continued his predecessors' work of creating a centralized state governed from the capital. He sought to eliminate the remnants of feudalism persisting in parts of France and, by compelling the noble elite to inhabit his lavish Palace of Versailles, succeeded in pacifying the aristocracy, many members of which had participated in the Fronde rebellion during Louis' minority.

    For much of Louis's reign, France stood as the leading European power, engaging in three major wars—the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of the Spanish Succession—and two minor conflicts—the War of Devolution and the War of the Reunions.

    He encouraged and benefited from the work of prominent political, military and cultural figures such as Mazarin, Colbert, Turenne and Vauban, as well as Molière, Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, Lully, Le Brun, Rigaud, Le Vau, Mansart, Perrault and Le Nôtre.

    Upon his death just days before his seventy-seventh birthday, Louis was succeeded by his five-year-old great-grandson who became Louis XV. All his intermediate heirs—his son Louis, le Grand Dauphin; the Dauphin's eldest son Louis, duc de Bourgogne; and Bourgogne's eldest son Louis, duc de Bretagne—predeceased Louis.

    128.00 €
  • Mozart

    To say that Mozart was a gifted child would be a grand understatement. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg 1756.
    He was the son of Leopold Mozart, who was Vice-Kapellmeister to Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. He showed exceptional musical precocity playing the klavier at three and composing at five. He also possessed perfect pitch and could write down music with just one hearing.

    His sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) was also a brilliant keyboard player, and in 1762 Leopold decided to present his children’s talents at various European courts. During this tour Wolfgang taught himself to play the violin, took composition classes with J.C. Bach and Abel in London, composed his first three symphonies in 1764, and proposed marriage to Marie Antoinette. She turned him down.

    The family returned to Salzburg in 1766, and by 1768 he had composed two operas, La finita semplice and Bastien und Bastienne. On further trips to Italy he was acclaimed and studied with well known composers. At fourteen he heard Allegri’s Miserere at the Sistine Chapel and wrote down the score after one hearing. Mendelssohn did the same thing seventy years later, when he was twenty one. In 1770 his opera Mitridate, Ré di Ponto was successfully produced in Milan.

    When his father became too ill to travel, his mother accompanied him on a tour of German states that led to Paris where his mother died in 1778. No longer a child prodigy, Mozart had trouble making his mark in Paris where the musical world was occupied with the controversy between Gluck and Piccinni, (the director of the opera). Unable to find a job he returned to Salzburg where he spent two years as court and cathedral organist. A growing feud with the archbishop culminated in his leaving Salzburg for Vienna where he stayed with the Webers, whom he had met in Mannheim, and went on to marry the middle daughter Constanze in August 1782. Leopold Mozart was not pleased that his son would marry a penniless girl from a dubious family, and relations between him and his son cooled considerably.

    From age six young Wolfgang was steadily on the road being exhibited to the courts of Europe, learned musicians and the public. Later in his life, he also traveled extensively so that fourteen of his thirty six years were spent away from home. Probably due to having matured very early as an artist but not having the opportunity to mature as a person, Mozart’s later life was thwarted by his irresponsibility. "For just as this rare being early became a man so far as his art was concerned, he always remained - as the impartial observer must say of him - in almost all matters a child. He never learned to rule himself... He always needed a guiding hand," wrote his first biographer, Friedrich Schlichtergoll in 1793.

    Growing up a complicated man he had an unprecedented knack for making enemies and never succeeded in landing a lucrative position which by his talent alone, should have been no trouble. The last nine years of his life produced a vast quantity of great works in stark comparison with his serious financial troubles.

    During the composition of his Requiem, Mozart became very ill and died on December 5, 1791. Much speculation has surrounded the circumstances of Mozart’s death, but despite the many theories, none have been proved. He was buried in an unmarked grave.

    128.00 €
  • Christopher Colombus

    With his four voyages of exploration and several attempts at establishing a settlement on the island of Hispaniola, all funded by Isabella I of Castile, he initiated the process of Spanish colonization which foreshadowed general European colonization of the "New World".

    Although Columbus was not the first explorer to reach the Americas from Europe (being preceded by the Norse led by Leif Ericson), the voyages of Columbus molded the future of European colonization and encouraged European exploration of foreign lands for centuries to come.

    Columbus's initial 1492 voyage came at a critical time of emerging modern western imperialism and economic competition between developing kingdoms seeking wealth from the establishment of trade routes and colonies. In this sociopolitical climate, Columbus's far-fetched scheme won the attention of Isabella I of Castile. Severely underestimating the circumference of the Earth, he estimated that a westward route from Iberia to the Indies would be shorter than the overland trade route through Arabia. If true, this would allow Spain entry into the lucrative spice trade — heretofore commanded by the Arabs and Italians. Following his plotted course, he instead landed within the Bahamas Archipelago at a locale he named San Salvador. Mistaking the lands he encountered for Asia, he referred to the inhabitants as "indios" (Spanish for "Indians").

    128.00 €
  • Henri IV

    First Bourbon  king of France (1589 – 1610) and king of Navarra (as Henry III, 1572 – 89), one of the most popular figures in French history.
    Henry was brought up as a Protestant and received his military training from the Huguenot leader Gaspard II de Coligny in the Wars of Religion. He married Margaret of Valois in 1572; the marriage provided the opportunity for the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day six days later.

    Henry was held at the French court from 1572 to 1576, when he escaped to join the forces against Henry III. He fought the War of the Three Henrys and prevailed as unrivaled leader. He became king after Henry III was assassinated in 1589, but was forced to fight the Holy League  for nine years to secure his kingdom.
    In 1593 he converted to Roman Catholicism to remove all pretext for resistance to his rule. He entered Paris amid cheers in 1594, but he had to wage war (1595 – 98) against Spain, which supported the remaining resistance to him in France. Henry signed the Edict of Nantes in 1598, ending 40 years of civil war. With the aid of his ministers, including the duke de Sully, Henry brought order and new prosperity to France.
    His earlier marriage was annulled, and in 1600 he married Marie de Médicis.

    In 1610 he was assassinated by a fanatical Roman Catholic.

    128.00 €
  • Léonard de Vinci

    The illegitimate son of a 25-year-old notary, Ser Piero, and a peasant girl, Caterina, Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy, just outside Florence. His father took custody of the little fellow shortly after his birth, while his mother married someone else and moved to a neighboring town. They kept on having kids, although not with each other, and they eventually supplied him with a total of 17 half sisters and brothers..
    Growing up in his father's Vinci home, Leonardo had access to scholarly texts owned by family and friends. He was also exposed to Vinci's longstanding painting tradition, and when he was about 15 his father apprenticed him to the renowned workshop of Andrea del Verrochio in Florence. Even as an apprentice, Leonardo demonstrated his colossal talent. Indeed, his genius seems to have seeped into a number of pieces produced by the Verrocchio's workshop from the period 1470 to 1475. For example, one of Leonardo's first big breaks was to paint an angel in Verrochio's "Baptism of Christ," and Leonardo was so much better than his master's that Verrochio allegedly resolved never to paint again. Leonardo stayed in the Verrocchio workshop until 1477 when he set up a shingle for himself.

    In search of new challenges and the big bucks, he entered the service of the Duke of Milan in 1482, abandoning his first commission in Florence, "The Adoration of the Magi". He spent 17 years in Milan, leaving only after Duke Ludovico Sforza's fall from power in 1499. It was during these years that Leonardo hit his stride, reaching new heights of scientific and artistic achievement.

    The Duke kept Leonardo busy painting and sculpting and designing elaborate court festivals, but he also put Leonardo to work designing weapons, buildings and machinery. From 1485 to 1490, Leonardo produced a studies on loads of subjects, including nature, flying machines, geometry, mechanics, municipal construction, canals and architecture (designing everything from churches to fortresses). His studies from this period contain designs for advanced weapons, including a tank and other war vehicles, various combat devices, and submarines. Also during this period, Leonardo produced his first anatomical studies. His Milan workshop was a veritable hive of activity, buzzing with apprentices and students.

    Alas, Leonardo's interests were so broad, and he was so often compelled by new subjects, that he usually failed to finish what he started. This lack of "stick-to-it-ness" resulted in his completing only about six works in these 17 years, including "The Last Supper" and "The Virgin on the Rocks," and he left dozens of paintings and projects unfinished or unrealized (see "Big Horse" in sidebar). He spent most of his time studying science, either by going out into nature and observing things or by locking himself away in his workshop cutting up bodies or pondering universal truths.

    Between 1490 and 1495 he developed his habit of recording his studies in meticulously illustrated notebooks. His work covered four main themes: painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy. These studies and sketches were collected into various codices and manuscripts, which are now hungrily collected by museums and individuals (Bill Gates recently plunked down $30 million for the Codex Leicester!).

    Back to Milan... after the invasion by the French and Ludovico Sforza's fall from power in 1499, Leonardo was left to search for a new patron. Over the next 16 years, Leonardo worked and traveled throughout Italy for a number of employers, including the dastardly Cesare Borgia. He traveled for a year with Borgia's army as a military engineer and even met Niccolo Machiavelli, author of "The Prince." Leonardo also designed a bridge to span the "golden horn" in Constantinople during this period and received a commission, with the help of Machiavelli, to paint the "Battle of Anghiari."

    About 1503, Leonardo reportedly began work on the "Mona Lisa." On July 9, 1504, he received notice of the death of his father, Ser Piero. Through the contrivances of his meddling half brothers and sisters, Leonardo was deprived of any inheritance. The death of a beloved uncle also resulted in a scuffle over inheritance, but this time Leonardo beat out his scheming siblings and wound up with use of the uncle's land and money.

    From 1513 to 1516, he worked in Rome, maintaining a workshop and undertaking a variety of projects for the Pope. He continued his studies of human anatomy and physiology, but the Pope forbade him from dissecting cadavers, which truly cramped his style.

    Following the death of his patron Giuliano de' Medici in March of 1516, he was offered the title of Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King by Francis I in France. His last and perhaps most generous patron, Francis I provided Leonardo with a cushy job, including a stipend and manor house near the royal chateau at Amboise.
    Although suffering from a paralysis of the right hand, Leonardo was still able to draw and teach. He produced studies for the Virgin Mary from "The Virgin and Child with St. Anne", studies of cats, horses, dragons, St. George, anatomical studies, studies on the nature of water, drawings of the Deluge, and of various machines.

    Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France. Legend has it that King Francis was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo's head in his arms.

    172.00 €
  • Vercingétorix

    Gallic chief, he comes from one of the most powerful peoples of Gaul at the time, the Arverni, occupying the Massif Central, east of the Rhone, the north-east of Gaul. In 52 BC saw Vercingetorix takes the head of an uprising began in the central regions of France, lying Armorica and fueled by the Druids. Overcoming the divisions endemic, many tribes, momentarily submitted by Caesar (campaigns of 58-53 BC), proclaimed a war of liberation.

    Arverni Carnutes Lemor Cadurci, Bituriges, etc.. cluster around Vercingetorix and entrust the command of armies. Far from the biased portrait that made him his opponent, Julius Caesar, the young chef of twenty years is not a rider impulsive. Selfless, animated by a sincere love of liberty is a warrior bold, quick action, but cautious, a clever tactician, a born organizer.


    To rally his troops to the doubters, he does not hesitate to take hostages in the cities, imposing an iron discipline. Sporadic local rebellions against the Roman occupiers, he managed to raise a general insurrection, and for the first time in Gaul, to bring about a real movement for national unity. Thanks to Vercingetorix, the war will get a facelift. Taking advantage of the absence of Caesar, restrained by domestic political concerns in Italy, knowing weak against the wall of the Roman legions, he encourages the Gauls in a company of guerrillas.

    He immediately imposes a policy, the scorched earth around the Roman army to starve. Moreover, he refuses to fight. Cesar reacts quickly. It crosses the Cevennes snowy, manages to take the capital of Bituriges which was not destroyed (Bourges), then walk on Gergovia, the capital of Arverni. The failure suffered by Caesar in June 52 BC AD further strengthens the role of Vercingetorix and his authority, since the most ancient allies of Rome, Eduens align themselves with him.

    Caesar responded immediately and, after having crushed the Gallic cavalry near Dijon, he Vercingetorix forced to retreat into the citadel of Alesia. The Romans surrounding stations distributed so that neither the army called in as reinforcements Vercingetorix or release tempted by the besieged are some 80,000, are unable to force the Roman lines. After forty days of siege, starving his troops, went to Caesar Vercingetorix. He was taken by it to appear in the triumph that Rome made to the winner. It’s six years later that Vercingetorix was strangled in his prison.


    128.00 €
  • Marie Curie

    A towering figure in the history of chemistry and physics, Marie Curie is most famous for the discovery of the elements polonium and radium.
    Prohibited from higher education in her native Poland (then controlled by Russia), she moved to Paris in 1891 and studied at the Sorbonne.
    In 1895 Marie married Pierre Curie (who was by then a noted scientist), and together they began working on radiation experiments with uranium. (It was Marie who first coined the term "radioactivity" to describe the emission of uranic rays.)
    In 1898 the Curies discovered polonium and radium, and in 1903 they shared the Nobel Prize for physics with Henri Becquerel. When Pierre was killed suddenly in 1906, Marie took over his post as a professor at the Sorbonne, becoming the first woman to teach there. She was awarded a second Nobel in 1911 (this time for chemistry) for her work on radium and its compounds.

    Concerned more with humanitarian causes than financial rewards, Marie Curie was one of the most celebrated scientists of her time, at a time when the field was almost exclusively for men. It is thought her long exposure to radioactive materials precipitated her death.

    94.00 €
  • Clemenceau

    George Clemenceau (1841-1929) is credited in French and world history with bringing France from the brink of defeat to victory in the Great War. As a part of doing so, he convinced the Allies to unify their efforts through the leadership of a supreme commander, previously unheard of among nations of the day.
    That said, for many other reasons Clemenceau had already earned a secure, recognized place among the great political leaders of the 20th Century. His efforts during the years of the Great War, notably from 1917 through the 1918-19 Peace of Versailles deliberations, earned him the name, “Le Pere La Victorie,” the Father of Victory. Before that, he was known simply as “The Tiger,” a name very indicative of his political style and long record of public service. Like his father, Clemenceau was a staunch republican and anti-monarchist during a period when both were unpopular views. Although trained as a doctor, he was a political writer by inclination.

    He was also a masterful, charismatic debater and orator.

    The Tiger was a politician who stood above politics. Repeatedly throughout his career he turned down appointed office, his broader interest, that of France, the great nation, over-riding individual political ambitions. Because of this attitude, even within his own Party he was much feared, if not hated. A biographer, Lewis Douglas, defined Clemenceau’s maverick political approach when he wrote, “(Clemenceau) destroyed where he disbelieved; created where he believed.” And, with regard to both, he always had strong views.

    Abuse of power was, for Clemenceau, a bete noir. Early on in his career he warned of the potential danger of this in social legislation. Not that he wasn’t in favor of some social legislation; only that he had a cautious view of power. Organized labor was a case in point to him. He proved to be justified in his concern. For a time he was forced out of public life, but it took the energy and resources of the Opposition in concert with his own Party to defeat him in a local election.

    As for abuse of power, the issue would surface time and again for him over the years. Out of elected office, he returned to writing, successfully championing with Emile Zola the cause of Alfred Dreyfus. The infamous Dreyfus Affair was to have repercussions throughout France’s military and judicial establishments for many years. The high profile nature of the issue also shored up Clemenceau’s popularity and he was subsequently re-elected to public office, more powerful and influential than previously.

    During this tenure he again roused the wrath of his fellow politicians when he managed to legislate the removal of parliamentary immunity for criminal acts committed by elected representatives.

    The beginning of the Great War found the Tiger sitting in the French Senate. For at least five years he had been questioning France’s preparedness for war with Germany, an unheeded voice in the wilderness. The German military quickly proved the accuracy of his pronouncements.

    Finally, in late 1917, with defeat looming, Clemenceau was asked to form a government, almost as if French politicians were challenging him to put his money where his mouth was. He did so, taking a non-conciliatory position that France would settle only for the unconditional surrender of Germany. Before April, 1918, he had convinced the Allies of the need for unity of command. By November, Germany had signed an armistice.

    Clemenceau, along with Woodrow Wilson of the United States and Lloyd George of Britain, shaped the terms of the Peace of Versailles. There were problems, however.

    Woodrow Wilson wanted a League of Nations, an idealistic manifestation that “the war to end all wars” would be just that. Clemenceau, the realist, wanted protections for France. He did not trust the Germans and he was already drawing lessons from the Russian Revolution. He believed nationalistic feelings and aspirations of empire were too strong to make a League of Nations workable. Wilson’s ideal prevailed, though, of course, so too did Clemenceau’s reality.

    The Tiger’s sharp tongue and uncannily accurate analysis did not make him a friend of Lloyd George either, a man the Tiger regarded as a pompous political opportunist. The biographer, Stephen Bonsal, reports an incident when the two leaders almost came to blows.

    Petulant in losing an argument, Lloyd George’s final comment in the exchange was, “Well, I shall expect an apology for these outrageous words.”
    Clemenceau’s reply: “You shall wait for it as long as you wait for the pacification of Ireland.” For that the world still waits.
    In early 1920 Clemenceau’s stubbornness on an issue of principle resulted in the downfall of his government. Like Churchill after him, Clemenceau brought his country to an historic victory, only to be defeated himself.

    During his remaining years he continued to write. He was working on his memoirs when he died in Paris in 1929.

    94.00 €
  • Van Gogh

    Although he did battle depression and mental disease in his later years, Vincent van Gogh became one of the most renowned artists of the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries. Known as the ‘Mad Artist,’ he was plagued with failures and rejections early in his life that scarred him deeply – something that might have inspired his most prolific works later in life.

    As a young man, Vincent was exposed to religion, which would cause him to search for God by helping the poor. He believed he should live in squalid conditions, just as the poor, so he could help them. And, even though he failed no less than two times to enter into theological studies, he was then placed as a missionary in a small Belgium Province, where he was sent away for his misrepresentation of a priest.

    Vincent had many brothers, three of which became art dealers. One of these brothers, named Theo, would help him in rise out of his depression by offering him alternatives to regular work and by giving him money to help him survive. Theo would help him study basic art so that Van Gogh would have an outlet for his strained relationships.

    After being rejected for marriage by his widowed cousin, Van Gogh then went to her father who in turn rejected him based on his inability to support her financially. After this incident, Vincent spent some time in The Hague, where he continued to paint. He had some support from his cousin, Anton Mauve, but when Van Gogh continued a relationship with a prostitute, Mauve soon stopped corresponding and supporting his artistic pursuits. With this prostitute, it is possible that he fathered a son named Willem, who believed himself thereafter to be the descendent of Vincent.

    In 1886, Vincent van Gogh moved to Paris where he worked in a studio. He began to mingle in higher social circles and was given a chance to display his art next to some of the day’s greatest impressionist artists. Within three years, depression, drinking, and smoking had gotten the best of Vincent and he was admitted into an insane asylum, where he continued to paint the asylum’s surroundings. Some of his most famous works done during this period are Starry Night Over the Rhone and Portrait of Dr. Gachet. At the age of 37, due to paranoia and other mental conditions, Van Gogh committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest.

    94.00 €