Monday, November 4, 2013



FRANQUE Joseph (1774-1833)

ca. 1812

oil on canvas

H. 83.5 cm; W. 70.4 cm

Where held
Bibliothèque Paul Marmottan, Boulogne-Billancourt 

© Brigdeman Art Library - Service presse/musée Marmottan Monet 

Elisa Baciocchi, née Elisa Bonaparte, was the eldest 
of Napoleon's three sisters, who all became imperial 
princesses after their brother's coronation. Elisa was 
born in 1777 in Ajaccio, and she married army officer 
Félix Baciocchi in 1797. In 1805, she became Princess 
of Piombino and Lucca, then Grand-Duchess of Tuscany 
in 1809. Her arrival in Tuscany attracted a growing 
number of French people, who, together with the Italians, 
formed a Court around their new ruler, similar to the one 
at the Tuileries. Joseph Franque probably painted this 
portrait of Elisa and another one of Félix during his 
visit to Florence around 1812.

Joseph Franque here depicts the young ruler in a bust 
portrait against an ochre background. She is wearing 
a dark blue bodice with gold embroidery and a gauze 
collar, topped with a purple shawl edged with a floral 
design. On her head is a tiara set with a diamond, 
gemstones and a cameo, and in her left hand she 
is holding a notebook.

In this naturalistic portrait, the artist depicts Elisa 
as being more ‘homely' than her sister Pauline, whose 
beauty was renowned throughout the Empire. On show 
here is Princess Elisa the political ruler (she had reformed 
the clergy and founded charities) and cultural leader. 
She was a friend of the arts and supported the “Académie 
des Marbres de Carrare”. She also founded a “Banque 
élisienne” (The Elisa Bank) and an academy directed by 
sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini, where Franque became 
Professor of Drawing in 1813. At the fall of the Great-Duchy, 
Franque moved to Naples where he put himself (briefly) in 
the service of Caroline Bonaparte, who had married 
Joachim Murat.

In March 1814, Elisa was forced into exile, residing in 
France, Italy (Bologna) and Austria (Gratz, with her 
brother Jérôme), before finally being permitted to live 
permanently in Bologna.

As a consequence of her brother's return from Elba in 
March 1815, she was put under house arrest in Austria 
until March 1816, whereupon she was permitted to 
move to Trieste, where she died in 1820, aged 43.

Joseph Franque (1774-1833) was the twin brother of 
Jean-Pierre Franque (1774-1860), also a famous 
painter of the beginning of the nineteenth century 
from Egypt). Both were pupils of David.

Gabrielle de Roincé
Curator of the Bibliothèque Paul Marmottan
This portrait is currently on show in the exhibition 
the Musée Marmottan-Monet, from 3 October, 2013, 
to 26 January, 2014. Another exhibition on the same 
subject is also on show at the Bibliothèque Marmottan
 in Boulogne-Billancourt. 

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