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HORTENSE DE BEAUHARNAIS; EUGÈNE DE BEAUHARNAIS

A gold-mounted tortoiseshell double portrait snuff box, Pierre André Montauban, Paris, 1798-1809
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34

HORTENSE DE BEAUHARNAIS; EUGÈNE DE BEAUHARNAIS

A gold-mounted tortoiseshell double portrait snuff box, Pierre André Montauban, Paris, 1798-1809
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Details & Cataloguing

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A gold-mounted tortoiseshell double portrait snuff box, Pierre André Montauban, Paris, 1798-1809
oval, the lid and base set with hexagonal miniatures of Hortense de Beauharnais and her brother Eugène de Beauharnais, French School after François Pascal Simon, after 1802, she, on the lid, with hair plaited into a knot, wearing a yellow dress over an embroidered white chemise, with a paisley shawl and he in the red and dark green uniform of a colonel of the chasseurs à cheval, gold-lined, maker's mark, bear's head and Paris 3me titre et grosse garantie for 1798-1809

PNA 1241
MN 1241


box 2.5 x 9.3 x 4.8 cm., miniatures 5 x 2.7 cm.
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Provenance

According to family tradition, this box belonged to Empress Joséphine (1763-1814);
Eugénie, Empress of the French (1826-1920);
Prince Victor Napoléon (1862-1926);
Prince Louis Napoléon (1914-1997)

Literature

Related literature

Exhibition catalogue, Eugène de Beauharnais, honneur & fidélité, Musée national des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau, 1999–2000;
Andrea Stuart, Josephine. The Rose of Martinique, London, 2004

Catalogue Note

Following the birth of her son Eugène in 1781, Josephine de Beauharnais, née Tascher de la Pagerie, gave birth to Hortense in April 1783. During the Reign of Terror in 1794, Joséphine wrote from the imprisonment of herself and her first husband, Vicomte Alexandre de Beauharnais, who was a general during the French Revolution, to her young children: ‘My darling little Hortense, it breaks my heart to be separated from you and my dear Eugène; I think ceaselessly of my two darling children whom I love and embrace with all my heart’ (Stuart, 2004, p. 132). Alexandre was guillotined the same year, and Joséphine married Napoléon Bonaparte two years later. Throughout this marriage, brother and sister mediated numerous times between Joséphine and Napoléon in order to save their marriage, which was ultimately dissolved in December 1809. After the tragic loss of her eldest son Napoléon Charles in May 1807, it was Hortense’s brother, with his optimism and positive attitude, who helped her recover . The relationship between Hortense, Eugene and Josephine remained particularly close, and it is probable that Empress Joséphine owned this snuff box, set with miniature portraits of her beloved children, who were physically separated from each other because of their respective marriages and the subsequent relocations to other European countries.

Both miniatures are taken after paintings by Baron Gérard, of which several replicas were made. A version of the Hortense portrait is in the collection of the châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau (inv. no. M.M. 40.47.7231), and a version of the Eugène portrait is in a private collection (see Malmaison 1999–2000, cat. no. 43). The original portraits were probably taken circa 1802, when Eugène was appointed a colonel of the chasseurs à cheval and Hortense married Louis Bonaparte.

The distinctive hexagonal shape of the miniatures is an example of a short-lived fashion for such geometric forms that flourished in France at the end of the Consulate and early years of the Empire. If not initiated by Jean Baptiste Isabey, it was certainly a fashion embraced by him: see an upright octagonal miniature of a lady in the Hillwood Museum, Washington (inv. no. 53.6) and a similarly shaped miniature of an officer of the Emperor’s House Guard, formerly in the D. David-Weill and Clore collections (Sotheby’s London, 17 March 1986, lot 110).

Pierre-André Montauban was born in Paris on 22 September 1763 but is not recorded as working there until 1800 when he entered a post-revolutionary mark as bijoutier; garnisseur from 30 quai des Orfèvres. As garnisseur, he specialised in mounting miniatures or other types of panel in gold or more often, gold-lined or mounted tortoiseshell boxes. In common with other garnisseurs at this date, such as the Leferres, he appears to have worked both on his own account and more often as a supplier of boxes to retailers such as Gibert, particularly to produce presentation boxes for the Imperial family.  No boxes with Montauban's maker's mark are to be found with post-1819 Paris marks and he is no longer recorded in the almanacs after around 1814 so it is to be presumed that he either retired, emigrated or died before then.

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