Evangeline Bruce, Napoleon & Josephine, an improbable marriage, London, 1995;
Bernd Pappe, Jean-Baptiste Jacques Augustin: 1759–1832: une nouvelle excellence dans l’art du portrait en miniature, Verona, 2015
This miniature of Hortense de Beauharnais, Queen of Holland, is a variation of one by Jean Baptiste Jacques Augustin that was painted in Paris some time after 1807, when the sitter returned to the city from Holland on the grounds of ill-health. While the original portrait by Augustin is untraced today, it is known through an artist’s tracing still in the possession of his descendants (Pappe, cat. no. 1044), and by a copy made by his wife, Pauline Augustin, today in the collection of the Musée du Louvre (inv. no. RF 30660, ibid., p. 50, fig. 48). Comparison between the Louvre miniature and the present work suggest they are by the same hand, but, there are differences in scale and costume. In the former the queen is depicted half-length, wearing a dress with a rounded neckline and a hat with a peaked front and raised crown; in the latter she is portrayed bust-length, wearing a dress with a v-shaped neckline and a cap-form headdress.
Both costumes, with their standing lace collars and puffed sleeves, embody le style troubadour, a fashion that drew inspiration from late sixteenth and early seventeenth century dress. Isabey had introduced such details in his designs for the costumes worn at the coronation of Napoléon and Joséphine in December 1804, and thereafter his reinterpretations of Renaissance costume became a feature of both everyday and masquerade dress. This fashion flourished at the same time as a new category of historical painting emerged in France, le genre chevaleresque, a style inspired by contemporary romantic literature. Empress Joséphine was both a devotee of the fashion - see lot 38 - and an avid collector of the paintings, examples of which may be seen in Auguste Garnerey’s watercolour of the Music Salon at Malmaison (Musée national des Châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau, inv. no. M.M.40.47.7215).
In June 1800, Madeleine Pauline Du Cruet de Barailhon (1781–1865), daughter of a secrétaire du roi aux finances, married her miniature teacher, Jean Baptiste Jacques Augustin, twenty-two years her senior. She was one of the most accomplished of his numerous pupils, collaborating with him and honing her style so precisely to his that it can be difficult at times to distinguish between the two hands.
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