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Details & Cataloguing

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A blond tortoiseshell portrait bonbonnière, French, late 18th century
circular, the lid later inset with an oval miniature of Marie Louise, Empress of the French, by Jean Baptiste Isabey, signed: Isabey, circa 1810, wearing a gold-embroidered white dress with a standing lace collar, pearl necklace, earrings and comb, on a reeded foiled ground with foliate stamped gold frame, gold rims, struck with Paris petite garantie, 1809-1819

PNA 1245
MN 1245


box 2.3 x 6.7 cm., miniature 3.4 x 2.4 cm
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Provenance

Eugénie, Empress of the French (1826-1920);
Prince Victor Napoléon (1862-1926);
Prince Louis Napoléon (1914-1997)

Literature

André Castelot, Alain Decaux & Pierre Marie Koenig, Le livre de la famille impériale. L’histoire de la famille Bonaparte à travers les collections du prince Napoléon, Paris, 1969, illust. p. 50

Related Literature

Arthur Léon Imbert de Saint-Armand, The Memoirs of the Empress Marie Louise, London 1886

Catalogue Note

‘The marriage of H.M. the Emperor with the Archduchess Marie Louise has been celebrated with unsurpassable magnificence, to which the preceding fêtes bore no comparison. The truly prodigious quantity of diamonds and pearls, the richness of the costumes and uniforms, the innumerable quantity of lustres which illuminated all parts of the Castle, and the joy of those present imparted to the fête a brilliancy worthy of the great and majestic solemnity’ (quoted Imbert de Saint-Amand, p. 145 f.) The splendour described by the French Ambassador to the Duke de Cadore comes as no surprise for the marriage held in 1810 between Marie Louise, daughter of the last Holy Roman Emperor Franz II, and Napoléon, recently divorced from Joséphine, joined two Imperial houses. In 1811, their son was born - Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, King of Rome. When Napoléon I joined his army in Germany in 1813, Marie Louise remained in France as regent de jure. Their marriage lasted until 1814, when Napoléon‘s reign was ended by the Treaty of Fontainebleau and he was sent to Elba, while Marie Louise was given the Duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, which she ruled until her death in 1847, remarrying twice: Comte de Neippberg in 1821 and thirteen years later, the Comte de Bombelles.

The present miniature depicts the Empress in her wedding gown but without the magnificent diamond and ruby parure, made by François Regnault Nitot, that Isabey depicted in the Salon portrait. Instead she wears a pearl necklace, earrings and comb, which suggest that this portrait was intended to be a more intimate record of the union; given that she was brought up modestly and simply, it was certainly more in keeping with the Empress’s personal taste.

Jean Baptiste Isabey (1767–1855), Dessinateur du Cabinet de S. M. Empereur et Roi, was one of the most favoured artists of Napoléon’s court, he helped to define the iconographic identity of the imperial family, not only by the means of portraiture but also by the ceremonies, fêtes and public festivals that he was called upon to organise. Having been previously the drawing master of Empress Joséphine and her daughter Hortense, Isabey fulfilled the same role for Empress Marie Louise. His affable nature eased any anxiety the new empress might have harboured about his connection with his former pupils, and rapidly an understanding developed between them. This rapport is reflected in the tender portraits he painted of her in the succeeding years, in particular those where she is depicted with her son the Roi de Rome, who was born in 1811.

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