‘Neither a duchy of Genoa, nor a kingdom of Italy, can tempt me to treason … I would sooner be an honest soldier than a treacherous prince. ‘The Emperor’, you say, ‘has wronged me’. If so, I have forgotten it. I only remember his kindness. Everything I possess or am, I owe to him; my rank, my titles, my fortune, and above all, what you kindly call my glory. Therefore, I am determined to serve him as long as I live … May my sword shiver in my hand if I ever draw it against the Emperor or my native country’ (Memoirs of Queen Hortense
, pp. 285-6). So Eugène de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy, wrote to Alexander, Emperor of Russia, when he offered the Viceroy the duchy of Genoa if he were to leave Napoléon’s cause and join the opposition. Eugène’s loyalty and affection would under no circumstances permit this. The feeling was mutual: Napoléon considered Eugène to be the most capable member of his family and had officially adopted the son of his first wife Empress Joséphine, on 12 January 1806. Eugène did not become heir to the imperial throne but was declared Heir presumptive to the Kingdom of Italy in February 1806, after Napoleon had been crowned King of Italy on 7 June 1805 and had appointed Eugène Viceroy of Italy to the Italian Legislative Assembly. It was also Napoléon who chose the candidate for Eugène’s marriage for political reasons, but unlike the marriage of his sister Hortense, his was a happy one: on 14 January 1806, Eugène married Princess Augusta Amalia of Bavaria (1788–1851), eldest daughter of Napoleon's ally, King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria.
The couple had seven children (see lot 37). After Napoleon’s abdication in 1814, Eugène moved to Bavaria to join his wife’s family and his father-in-law later made him Duke of Leuchtenberg and Prince of Eichstätt. He died in 1824 in Munich.
This ‘en camaïeu’ portrait may be compared with Andrea Appiani’s coloured chalk profile of the sitter, today in the collection of the Museo Correr, Venice.