Empress Josephine

Empress Josephine

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Title: Joséphine de Beauharnais, Empress of the French, 1805.

Author : GERARD, Baron François (1770 - 1837)

Creation date : 1808

Date shown: 1805

Dimensions: Height 28 - Width 27

Technique and other indications: The original of this painting was commissioned from GERARD in 1807 and presented at the Salon of 1808. Oil on canvas

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Picture reference: 89EE60 / MV 4860

Joséphine de Beauharnais, Empress of the French, 1805.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais

Publication date: April 2014

Historical context

Marie-Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie (1763-1814) was born in Martinique to a family that had settled in the Islands for half a century. Her misconduct during Napoleon's absence during the Egyptian campaign brought her on the brink of divorce.

Crowned Empress in 1804, she suffered the hatred of the Bonaparte clan. Thanks to the two million dollars paid to her each year by the Treasury, she lived from then on in a golden semi-retirement at the Château de la Malmaison, which she had acquired in 1799.

Image Analysis

The Empress is wearing the coronation full dress here. It was designed, like that of the Emperor, by Isabey and Percier and included "a large purple velvet coat sown with golden bees (22.60 m long) made by the Leroy fashion house. and Rimbaud; in the embroidery are intertwined laurel, oak and olive branches that surround the letter "N". The lining and the border are in ermine. The coat is tied over the left shoulder and supported by a belt clip on the left side. The dress is strewn with golden bees. The bodice and the top of the sleeves are enriched with diamonds (…) the tiara, the necklace and the earrings are in engraved stones, surrounded by brilliants: the collar is in gold lamé lace ”(Revue du Souvenir Napoléonien, 59th year, no.406, p. 63). Next to the Empress, on a cushion, rests the crown of gold, colored stones and pearls, the work of the jeweler Marguerite. The throne chair, made in 1805 by the great cabinetmaker Jacob-Desmalter, is now in the Château de Fontainebleau.


The original of this painting, also kept at Fontainebleau, was commissioned from Gérard in 1807 and shown at the Salon of 1808. This is a small replica that comes from the artist's studio. C. P. Landon, in his Annals of the Museum, Salon of 1808, writes: "The portrait of H. M. Empress should be cited in the first row. The truth of the resemblance, the softness of the expression, a graceful and natural pose, a correct drawing, a soft and delicate brush, a happy harmony of tone and effect, such are the beauties which constitute the merit of this painting. . "Landon thus fully captures the public impact of the revival of the monarchical splendor desired by Napoleon. There are many copies of this portrait of the empress in coronation costume. The distribution of portraits of sovereigns obviously helped to establish the popularity of the regime.

  • Beauharnais (Joséphine de)
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • official portrait


Bernard CHEVALLIER, Christophe PINCEMAILLE Empress Josephine Paris, Presses de la Renaissance, 1998 Françoise WAGENER Empress Joséphine: 1763-1814 Paris, Flammarion, 1999

To cite this article

Robert FOHR and Pascal TORRÈS, "The Empress Joséphine"

Video: Napoleon and Josephine. BIO Shorts. Biography


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