NAPOLÉON I, EMPEROR OF THE FRENCH AND HIS CONSORT JOSÉPHINE, EMPRESS OF THE FRENCH
Bernard-Henri Lévy (foreword by), Napoléon: A Private View, Treasures from the Bruno Ledoux Collection, New York, 2018
In the Musée du Louvre there are three autograph variants by Parant of the Joséphine miniature (inv nos OA 54, OA 5006 and RF179); a fourth version, inset in a gold snuff box, and closest to this miniature, is in the Bruno Ledoux collection (see Lévy, p. 292). The Ledoux collection also has a larger version of the Napoléon portrait (ibid. p. 255). The dark flecks on the ivory ground of the present miniature also appear on one of the Louvre versions, RF179. The present Napoléon miniature is interesting in that the reverse is also painted with a cameo bust, executed to the same degree of finish as that on the front. It is not unusual for artists to paint areas on the reverse of a miniature, knowing that, due to the ivory ground’s translucency, the colour will be visible on the front. However, as the recto and verso portraits on the present miniature are mirror replicas of each other, the ivory’s translucency could not be exploited. It therefore seems probable that Parant either envisioned that it would be mounted in a setting that was glazed on both sides, or that he was allowing the box maker the option of mounting the imperial image facing either right or left.
Although the gold lining of the box is unusually struck with the maker’s mark of the celebrated orfèvre de S.M l'Empereur Roi and retailer, Martin-Guillaume Biennais, the backing card behind one of the portraits is inscribed: ‘Leferre / 159 rue Saint-Martin’ (Fig. 1). This refers to the tabletier/ garnisseur Jean-Louis Leferre, 'qui fait toute sorte de boîtes doublées' and was described as ‘garnisseur en or pour la tabatière ronde et de forme, boîtes de cailloux et coquillages’. He entered his first marks in 1803 and again in 1811-12 from 159 rue St-Martin where he remained until his death in 1822 when the business was taken over by his widow, Catherine Adélaïde Duponnois who entered her own marks for ‘bijouterie ; la garniture de tabatière ; le doublé’ on 19 September 1822 from the same address. As with the contemporary Blerzy and Morel families, there has been some confusion between the different members of the Leferre family, caused largely by the 1871 fire which destroyed so many Paris registration records and by the French habit of describing people by their position in a family rather than by first name, such as fils ainé or cadet/jeune. It seems, however, that Jean-Louis Leferre, son of Nicolas and his wife Catherine Charlotte Georges, had married Catherine Adélaïde Duponnois on 15 April 1788. They appear to have had at least two sons and a daughter – Jean Marie Nicolas (born circa 1789), Alexandre Jean Marie (born 13 September 1790) and Anne Catherine Charlotte. Both sons seem to have been trained by their father but the elder (fils ainé) set up in business on his own, first found in the records at 12 and then 4 rue Grenéta in 1817. Following Jean-Louis’s death in 1822, his widow and the younger son, Alexandre, continued to trade at rue Saint-Martin 159 as Leferre Veuve et fils.
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