Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Napoleon - odds and ends

Artikelbildwedding carriage - Napoleon and Marie Louise

Napoleon crowning Josephine

Pinned Image

Napoleon's wedding gift to his second wife Marie-Louise was an emerald and diamond diadem [circle], part of a parure that has had its emeralds removed ad replaced with Persian turquoises. Purchased by Marjorie M. Post and gifted to the Smithsonian.




Hard-paste porcelain

Where held: 
Paris, Fondation Napoléon

Credits : 
© Fondation Napoléon - P. Maurin-Berthier


Part of an Egyptian tea service, composed of a teapot and nine teacups and saucers in the 
"Denon-Etruscan form", all in a beautiful deep blue, decorated with gold hieroglyphics and 
vignettes representing various sights in Egypt.

On 7 January 1810, just three weeks after his divorce, Napoleon wrote to Joséphine from 
his Palais des Tuileries: "I have ordered the production of a very beautiful porcelain service.
 On your designs it shall be very beautiful indeed." With a budget of 30,000 F, the divorced 
empress immediately ordered a replica version of the Egyptian table service that she liked 
immensely, a service that the Emperor had sent as a diplomatic gift to the tsar (today held 
in the Museum of Ceramics and the 18th Century on the Kuskovo Estate in Moscow). Before 

the new table service was delivered, and having returned one to the manufacturers

its style she judged too "severe" (today held at Apsley House, London), she received in the 

autumn of 1811 the tea service that would accompany it.

Between 1808 and 1813, the manufactory at Sèvres would produce no fewer than seven tea 
services, of which two went to the Empress; the first, costing 1,672 F, was given to her by the 
Emperor on 29 December 1808 as a new-year's gift (service n° 2, today held at the Musée de 
Malmaison), and the second, costing 1,984 F, was given to her on 31 October 1811 (service 
n° 4, begun at the Sèvres manufactory on 5 December 1810, today held at the Fondation 
Napoléon). Originally composed of eighteen teacups and saucers in the "Denon-Etruscan 
style" (1,296 F), an Egyptian tripod sugar bowl (180 F), a ribbed Etruscan sugar pot (80 F), a 
"Denon-Etruscan" teapot (150 F), an Egyptian bowl or basin (150 F), a trefoil-rimmed cream-jug 
(48 F) and a lipped milk-jug in the Etruscan style (80 F); only the teapot and half of the teacups 
and saucers remain. The majority are styled on the Greek vases that Denon himself actually sold 
to the king in 1785, the aim being to open up the manufacturers to the antique style, explaining 
thus the fact that a number of the pieces carry Denon's name. The scenes represented on the
 service are: on the teapot, "Vue d'Edfou du Nord au Sud" ("View of Edfu from North to South") 
and "Sépultures arabes à Zaoye" ("Arab burials at Zaoye"); and on the nine teacups, "Calis ou 
Canal qui conduit l'Eau au Caire" (the Calis or Canal bringing Water to Cairo"), "Vue d'Alexandrie"
 ("View of Alexandria"), "Tombeau des Mahometans" ("Tomb of the Mohammedans"), "Vue de 
Bénécê" ("View of Bahnasa"), "Vue de basse Egypte" ("View of lower-Egypt"), "Antinoé Vu du 
Nil" ("Antinopolis Viewed from the Nile"), "Vue de la basse Egypte" ("View of lower-Egypt"), 
"Village de Nagadi dans le désert" ("the village of Nagadi in the desert"), and "Pyramides de 
Ssakarah" ("Pyramids of Saqqara"). These designs are based on engravings taken from Vivant
 Denon's Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte (Travels in Lower and Upper Egypt) which 
was published in 1802. The landscapes were painted between May and July 1810 by 
Nicolas-Antoine Lebel, active during the period 1804 to 1845, and the gilding, decoration and 
burnishing were completed between July and October by the ornemanist Pierre-Louis Micaud, 
active during the period 1794 to 1834. The majority of the cups are marked with the date 
27 August, whilst the teapot carries the date of 27 September. The service went on sale on 
5 December 1810, priced at 1,984 F.

Bernard Chevallier (tr. and ed. H. D. W.)
Conservateur général du patrimoine (emeritus)
October 2008


DAVID Jacques Louis (1748-1825)

1807 (?)

Oil on wood

H. 43.5 cm; W. 36.1 cm

Where held
Paris, Fondation Dosne-Thiers
Institut de France)

© Art go

The story behind this painting has for a long time intrigued historians of the painter Jacques
Louis David. The portrait should be considered in reference to a painting of the Emperor in his
imperial robes that David was commissioned to paint in 1805. The painting was destined to
hang in the large law courts in Genoa (Italy) and was commissioned by Lebrun, then
arch-treasurer, who was preparing for the union of the former Republic of Genoa with the
French Empire. Napoleon agreed to the commission in August 1805 and David immediately
produced a rough draft (sketch signed and dated August 1805, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lille).
He set to work, and the canvas, which is more than 2.8m tall, was completed in 1806 and
presented to the Emperor at Saint-Cloud in July of that year. Napoleon rejected it, announcing
emphatically in a letter to Daru: "I have just seen the portrait of me produced by David. It is
a portrait so awful, so full of defects that I cannot accept it: I shall not have it hanging in any
town, especially not in Italy where it would present a poor impression of our school." At the
time, David's enemies spread the rumour that he had left the actual execution of the painting
to Devilliers, one of his students, and that it suffered due to this.

Following the Emperor's harsh critique of the painting, the artist went back to the drawing board,
producing a second painting in 1807. Once again, Napoleon rejected it (sketch signed and dated
1807, Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, U.S.A.). It is the head of the second version that appears
in the Fondation Dosne-Thiers example seen here. Infuriated, Napoleon ended up cancelling the
commission's funding. David would never finish his official portrait of the Emperor. In 1811,
he was privatedly commission by Alexander Douglas to produce a portrait of
Napoleon in his study at the Tuileries. The painting was to hang in Douglas' residence,
Hamilton Castle, in Scotland (Washington, National Gallery of Art). The following year, the
painter began work on a copy of the Douglas painting, but it remained in his workshop and
was only obtained by Napoleon III during the Second Empire (Musées nationaux, subject to
the owner's right to usufruct).

The Fondation Dosne-Thiers painting shows Napoleon wearing the famous laurel-wreath crown,
produced by Biennais and made up of forty-four large leaves, forty-two detachable berries and
twelve smaller leaves, set on an oval band and fixed at the back of the head by a pin. This crown
was destroyed during the Restoration. Only one leaf survives, which was given to Isabey, who
had it mounted in a snuff-box which bears the following inscription: "At Saint-Cloud in 1805,
before the departure for Milan, I was helping the emperor as he tried on the royal crown which
 was supposed to go above the golden laurel wreath made for the coronation in Notre-Dame.
One of the leaves fell off. Just as I was about to give it to the head chamberlain, His Majesty
said to me: 'Keep it; it will make a good souvenir of your clumsiness.'" (Musée de Fontainebleau).

Bernard Chevallier (tr. H.D.W.)
Conservateur général honoraire du patrimoine


The text is an extract from the catalogue accompanying the exhibition "Splendeurs
 de l'Empire. Autour de Napoléon et de la cour impériale".

This painting forms part of the "Napoleon: Revolution to Empire" exhibition, on display 
at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

July 2009

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