Fashion and the Reinvention of Court Costume in Portrayals of Josephine de Beauharnais (1794-1809)
Fashion and the Reinvention of Court Costume in Portrayals of Joséphine de Beauharnais (1794-1809) - During her reign as Empress of the French (1804-09), an image was fashioned for Josephine Bonaparte as simultaneously an empress and a woman of fashion. This blurred the traditional boundary between court costume and la mode, which had never been rigidly maintained but which acquired a new fluidity with the political and economic circumstances of the Napoleonic Empire. The insistent modernity of Josephine’s coronation costume is examined along with its emphasis on historical symbolism. No two official portraits of Josephine agree on the representation of her imperial costume, thus being indicative of the changeability of fashion in the modern sense having invaded the court wardrobe. The article also examines paintings of Josephine produced during her reign which dispensed with imperial regalia, yet were very ambitious artistically or were publicly exhibited. They attest to deep divisions between representations of her public and private personae and were symptomatic of an evolution in the ideology of the female ruler of France.
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1This essay studies the inventive deployment of fashion in paintings of Josephine Bonaparte during the period of her rise to public prominence, which began in the mid-1790s, through her reign as empress of the French (1804-09). One of its concerns is the status of visual images as a form of evidence about court costumes and fashion, recognizing the difficulty of separating the styling of the clothes from their representations in the visual arts. Pictures constitute an extremely important, and sometimes the only, material source of information about clothing that may not survive or may differ from its representation in archival documents and other textual sources. Yet visual images cannot be assumed faithfully or ‘transparently’ to describe the garments they depict. Instead, they are better thought of as translations, which are governed by representational conventions of their own. Indeed, visual images are capable of generating new images that refer as much if not more to those pictorial conventions as they do to actual garments or objects. In this regard, it is worth attending to distinctions between the genres and media of pictorial representation since their formats and physical characteristics can be telling in themselves of the role of fashion and costume in representing a court, particularly in a modern era of print culture and public exhibition. I shall be looking especially at official portraits and popular engravings of Josephine in formal court costume, and will also consider portraits and genre paintings that presented her in more informal situations during the years of her reign. The divisions in this rich pictorial culture reveal changes in Josephine’s status as a female sovereign, and show that her portrayal as empress cannot simply be regarded as a revival and continuation of the imagery of the pre-Revolutionary court.
- 1 Claire-Élisabeth-Jeanne Gravier de Vergennes, comtesse de Rémusat, Mémoires de Madame de Rémusat, (...)
2Josephine was able to play to a relatively open situation in which the formal conventions of court style were quite literally invented anew in the wake of the French Revolution. There was a marked distinction between male and female costume at the Napoleonic court as regards its fashionability : while Napoleon imposed a return to Ancien Régime court costumes for men, and revived the habit habillé, the attitude toward female dress was more liberal, with Josephine and her advisors taking the view that for the new court dress to succeed with women, it would have to be fashionable and flattering as well as luxurious. One of her ladies-in-waiting, Madame de Rémusat, noted with relief, ‘On pense bien qu’il ne fut pas question de reprendre le panier, mais seulement d’ajouter à nos vêtements ordinaires ce long manteau’1. Josephine had established a high profile identity as a woman of fashion during the Directory and Consulate (1794-1804) and this, combined with not directly inheriting a court tradition and ceremonial as had queens Marie Antoinette and Maria Lesczynska, gave her a certain flexibility. She was in a good position to bring even the most formal female costume at the Napoleonic court into line with the latest Paris fashions. Imperial court costumes for women merged modernity with tradition and fashion with formality and luxury, whereas costume for men became increasingly formalized as a quite separate and old-fashioned court uniform.
- 2 Philippe Séguy, Histoire des modes sous l’Empire, Paris, Tallandier, 1988, p. 191 : ‘Fashion, firs (...)
- 3 P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 191 ; Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, ‘Nudity à la greque in 1799’, The Art Bulleti (...)
- 4 Madeleine Delpierre, ‘Une Révolution en trois temps’, in Modes et Révolutions 1780-1804, exh. cat. (...)
3Fashion played an extremely important role in Josephine’s creation of a social identity for herself after the Terror. ‘La mode,’ as Philippe Séguy observed, ‘d’abord sous le Directoire, puis sous le Consulat, s’est identifiée à elle parce que créée pour elle, inspirée par elle’2. ‘Farouchement mondaine’, she helped set the tone for a group of sixty to eighty élégantes who asserted their social and public presence, and their sexuality, through fashion3. Josephine was among the first to adopt the daring neo-Greek dress style, setting trends during what costume and fashion historians regard as one of the most creative periods in the history of female dress. In a widely disseminated engraving made to commemorate her marriage to General Bonaparte in 1796, she wears a sleeveless chemise gown cut very low in the front and the back (Rose Joséphine Bonaparte née de la Pagerie, 1796, Bibliothèque Nationale de France). The robe en chemise was originally little more than a long one-piece tunic of white muslin slipped over the head and fastened around the waist with a sash4. It exposed more of the female body than ever had been considered decorous in the Ancien Régime, particularly in the daring style worn by Josephine in this engraving, which eliminated sleeves and a fichu (or large scarf that covered the chest). Unfitted before the early 1800s, the chemise dress was worn over a corsage of supple cloth ; it did away with the shaped and rigid undergarments that upper-class women had previously worn, in the name of returning to the ‘natural’ clothing supposedly favoured by ancient Greeks and Romans.
- 5 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Cabinet des estampes, series N2, Portraits, Josephine, R3 (...)
4Once Bonaparte became First Consul, the risqué aspects of Josephine’s public image had to be transformed into ones befitting the consort of a head of state. Several popular French engravings from the Consulate negotiated the issue by showing Josephine, elegantly dressed in neo-Greek attire, enacting rituals of deference to patriarchal authority. In one engraving, for example, she is seated in a garden and drawing a portrait bust of the First Consul, a skill she was not known to have acquired (Anonymous, Madame Bonaparte dessinant le portrait du Premier Consul, 1801-04, hand-coloured etching, châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau). In another, she stands and holds a wreath over the head of a portrait bust of Bonaparte’s father, which looks much like Bonaparte himself (Anonymous, Mme. Bonaparte couronnant le buste du père de Bonaparte/Madame Bonaparte, épouse du Premier Consul, nommé à vie le 14 Thermidor an X, 1802, Bibliothèque Nationale de France)5. English caricaturists satirized the role that costume played in Josephine’s accession to the throne, pointing to the artifice of costume (George Moutard Woodward and Captain Williams, The Progress of the Empress Josephine, published 20 April 1808, hand-colored etching, London, British Museum).
- 6 The painting was exhibited in 1801 hors catalogue ; see France in Russia : Empress Josephine’s Mal (...)
- 7 Pierre de La Mésangère, Collection de Meubles et Objets de Goût, Paris, Bureau du Journal des dame (...)
5François Gérard’s 1801 portrait of Josephine combined informality and stateliness in a brilliant depiction of the Bonapartes’ increasing power and status, and the concomitant transformation of the Consulate into an Empire (fig. 1). The portrait represented Josephine as the wife of the First Consul and had a quasi-official status. It was exhibited at the Salon of 1801, where it provoked lively interest among art critics, and was immediately popularized in an engraving (Mde Bonaparte, Bibliothèque Nationale de France) ; in 1802, the German composer and writer Johann-Friedrich Reichardt described its installation at the palace of Saint-Cloud, in a room visitors traversed before their audience with the First Consul and Madame Bonaparte6. Gérard portrayed Josephine as an ultra-fashionable modern woman, seated in relaxed comfort on an overstuffed sofa as she turns to look out. She is shown wearing a neo-Greek dress, and Gérard accentuated its sheer overskirt by spreading and piling it up in the foreground and tracing a thin band of gold that outlines its curving hem. The extreme relaxation of her pose, with her back curved and legs stretched out and crossed in front of her, denoted the comfort of modern dress, and contrasted sharply with the rigid, upright postures that had previously been maintained by the boned bodices, corsets, panniers, and hoops associated with Marie Antoinette and the pre-Revolutionary court. The high waist of the neoclassical dress hugged the breasts and its thin light fabric clung to the body, a style that flattered some bodies more than others. Contemporaries agreed that it suited Josephine admirably. She made the neo-Greek dress peculiarly her own and, as will be discussed, had herself portrayed in it even after she became empress. The furniture featured in Gérard’s 1801 portrait of Josephine was as chic as the clothing, and was itself popularized by the fashion editor Pierre de La Mésangère in an engraving from his series Meubles et Objets du Goût7. The low oriental ‘sopha’, for example, designed by Jacob Frères, was inspired by Bonaparte’s recent campaign in Egypt and Syria. Shown built into an alcove, it is raised on a low dais that is covered with a Turkish carpet. The sofa backs onto an open colonnade that reveals a landscape vista behind Josephine and, like the bunch of wildflowers dropped onto the cushion beside her, this backdrop associates her with nature. At the same time, the classical column rising behind her lends a conventional grandeur to the setting.
Fig. 1 - Baron François Gérard, Portrait de Joséphine, ca. 1801, oil on canvas : 178 × 174 cm. Saint-Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, inv. GE 5674.
- 8 Philip Mansel, Dressed to Rule : Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II, New Haven (...)
- 9 Ibid., p. 81.
- 10 See Margaret Waller, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes : Display, Cover-Up and Exposure in Modern Masculi (...)
6In sharp contrast to the emphasis on high fashion in Gérard’s 1801 portrait of Josephine, the First Consul was at that moment turning the sartorial clock back to the court costume of the Ancien Régime for the men in his entourage. As early as 1801, he required the habit habillé, or habit à la française, for men attending receptions at the Tuileries Palace who did not wear a uniform or have an official position8. In 1802 he began to wear the costume himself, as seen in Jean-Baptiste Isabey’s large drawing commemorating his visit to the Sevenne Brothers velvet factory in Rouen (Salon of 1804, Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon). From this point forward, as Philip Mansel has argued, male costume at the Napoleonic court became increasingly monarchical9. At the same time, Napoleon reserved the right to ‘dress down’ and sometimes contravened the formal dress code that he had specified for certain ceremonies by wearing relatively simple clothes, as a means of showing up his courtiers in their finery10.
- 11 These developments are summarized by F. Ffoulkes, op. cit., p. 183-205 ; see also P. Séguy, op. ci (...)
- 12 Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Pres (...)
7The coronation ceremonies in December 1804 were the occasion to display the magnificence of the Napoleonic court and to signify its legitimacy. Held in Paris, these ceremonies assumed extraordinary importance in announcing the symbolism of the new regime and underscoring its stimulation of the economy. Napoleon believed in the importance of the luxury trades to the economy of France. Recent scholarship on consumption during this period has drawn attention to the previously neglected role of the luxury market, female consumers, and a non-aristocratic notion of taste promoted by the fashion press and merchants, in stimulating the production and consumption of fashionable clothing and accessories. This has been shown to be a significant aspect of the economic growth that took place in France in the late eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries11. To invoke Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s concept, the ‘invention of a tradition’ for Napoleon’s empire is one of the thoroughly modern aspects of the regime. An imperial iconography and new courtly attire were rapidly fabricated, promoted and adopted in only six months12. This astonishingly speedy process owed something to the recent organization of massive revolutionary festivals. Yet so much work was demanded of artisans in the Paris fashion trades that extra hands had to be imported from Lyon to make all the costumes in time. The coronation established models for court costumes in France and the satellite courts of its empire, transforming women’s costumes in other European courts for decades to come.
- 13 The basic references remain, on Leroy, Henri Bouchot, La Toilette à la cour de Napoléon, chiffons (...)
- 14 P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 191–92 ; Le Sacre de Sa Majesté…, op. cit., p. XII : ‘Femme, elle veilla si (...)
- 15 Yvonne Deslandres, ‘Joséphine and La Mode’, Apollo, July 1977, p. 44-47 ; Claudette Joannis, Josép (...)
- 16 For earlier models of mitten and balloon sleeve dresses, see Modes et révolutions 1780-1804, op. c (...)
- 17 Modes et révolutions 1780-1804, p. 158. On the vogue for the cothurne and contemporary criticism o (...)
- 18 Françoise Vittu, ‘1780-1804 ou vingt ans de “Révolution des têtes françaises”’, in Modes et révolu (...)
8Josephine’s coronation costume was designed by Jean-Baptiste Isabey in consultation with advisors and fabricated by Louis-Hippolyte Leroy, the leading marchand de modes of the day13. Scholars credit Josephine with influencing its design14. The modernity of her coronation dress is most evident in its conformity to the high-waisted silhouette of the neo-Greek dress15. The skirt fell continuously down the front in contrast to the open robe that divided over a petticoat in most eighteenth-century dresses. The design of the sleeve combined two styles in vogue since the 1790s : the long mitten sleeve, which extended down to the knuckles ; and the short ‘ballon’ sleeve, translated into a pronounced puff at the shoulder16. The white taffeta slippers designed for the coronation imitated an antique style known as the cothurne, which crossed lacings up the leg (1804, Paris, Musée de la Mode et du Costume). These flat shoes were another feature of contemporary fashion. Flat shoes had replaced high heels in the 1790s, provoking some controversy about their resemblance to men’s shoes17. Josephine’s hairstyle was also up-to-date in its natural colour and close-fitting style, perpetuating a reaction against wigs and powdering that the Revolution had initiated18.
- 19 Xavier Salmon, De soie et de poudre : portraits de cour dans l’Europe des lumières, Versailles, Ch (...)
- 20 D. Roche, op. cit., p. 278–81 ; The Age of Napoleon : Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789-1815(...)
9The white colour of Josephine’s coronation dress conformed to the dominant neoclassical taste, although the change of fabric, from lightweight cotton muslin to a heavy silk satin brocade, had strong revivalist associations. Not only had ivory and cream coloured satins come into favour at Versailles toward the end of the Ancien Régime but the reversion to silk was politically symbolic and intended to support the Lyon silk manufacturers who had been catastrophically affected by the Revolution19. According to Daniel Roche, some 25,000 people had been employed in the textile and fashion industries during the eighteenth century. Napoleon reinstated traditional protectionist economic policies, banning the importation of Indian muslin during the Consulate and decreeing in 1804 that silk manufactured in France was mandatory for court costumes20. Madame de Chastenay noted the sudden change in women’s dress :
- 21 Victorine de Chastenay-Lanty, Mémoires de Madame de Chastenay, 1771-1815, ed. by Alphone Roserot, (...)
ce n’était plus la robe de mousseline avec le grand ruban à plat, c’étaient des robes de velours et de satin, de toutes les nuances de de toutes les couleurs. Il me fallut du temps pour m’y accoutumer ; je ne jugeais pas le prix des étoffes, et la bigarrure des couleurs choquait trop fortement mes yeux pour me paraître magnifique21.
- 22 Journal des dames et des modes, no. 22, 25 Nivôse an XIII [15 January 1805], p. 187 : ‘There are f (...)
- 23 Frédéric Masson, Joséphine imperatrice et reine, Paris, P. Ollendorff, 1908, p. 92-93 ; Serge Gran (...)
- 24 Examples of trains in crimson and puce velvet survive in the collection of the Châteaux de Malmais (...)
10The fashion press also commented on the new range of colours : ‘Il y a des robes de parure, en velours de toutes les couleurs : vert, bleu de ciel, lapis, barbeau, brun, nacarat, amaranthe. Le satin est ordinairement blanc, vigogne ou rose. Le crêpe est ordinairement noir’22. Josephine owned hundreds of dresses in coloured silks, satins and velvets23. She remained partial to white for her court costumes, however, often wearing a matching white train, which sustained the association of female court costume with la mode, particulary as pictured. She was almost invariably portrayed wearing white in both formal and informal portraits.When Josephine wore a coloured train, the general effect was to accentuate the white column of the dress24. The strong contrast between the white imperial dress and the coloured train was indebted to the neoclassical aesthetic of juxtaposing a richly coloured cashmere shawl with a white cotton dress, which Josephine herself had helped to popularize (as seen in her 1801 portrait by Gérard). Like the cashmere shawl, the train accentuated the body’s movements and emphasized its silhouette, while it also increased the wearer’s occupancy of space. It not only indicated rank but also the skill of a female courtier’s performance, her mastery of the heavy fabric and ability to transform it into a fluid and graceful complement to her gestures and movements.
- 25 The Age of Napoleon…, op. cit., p. 86.
- 26 Alphonse Maze-Sencier, Les Fournisseurs de Napoléon Ier et des deux impératrices d’après des docum (...)
11The model for the coloured velvet train complementing a white dress was of course Josephine’s coronation costume. The mantles designed for the Napoleonic coronation revived and redefined the mantle of the Bourbon court. The Bourbon’s royal blue velvet was changed to crimson or purple, a colour associated with imperial Rome. The traditional embroidered fleur-de-lys motifs were replaced with golden bees and a border of oak, laurel, and olive leaves encircling Napoleon’s cipher25. The mantle was the single most extravagant and costly element of Josephine’s coronation costume. François Gérard’s official coronation portrait emphasizes its sheer abundance. It dominates the entire foreground of the painting, curling and piling up beneath the seated empress and unfolding across the front edge until it is cropped by the corner, as if there were more to it than the painting could contain (fig. 2). This image of excess corresponds to surviving bills for the garment. The mantle required twenty-two metres of velvet, at a cost of 614 francs, with the ermine lining and embroidered border costing twenty times that much at 12.460 francs.26 According to a description of Isabey’s original design, Josephine’s mantle was supposed to have been worn asymmetrically over one shoulder in a dramatic toga-like style designed to match the asymmetry of Napoleon’s mantle but, at eighty pounds, it weighed too much for her to support and the design was modified by shoulder straps and a waist band, which became the standard construction for court trains.
Fig. 2 - Baron François Gérard, Joséphine en grand costume, 1808, oil on canvas : 214.1 × 160.5 cm. Fontainebleau, musée du château de Fontainebleau, inv. N 18 ; 309 EM.
- 27 Comparable portraits of Marie-Antoinette are reproduced in Marie-Antoinette, exh. cat., Paris, Réu (...)
- 28 France in Russia…, op. cit., p. 98-99, cat. no. 47.
12Gérard’s portrait of the empress seated in her coronation robes departs from the standing pose traditionally adopted for portraits of queens in their royal regalia, such as Louis Toque’s Portrait de Maria Lesczynska (1740, Paris, Musée du Louvre)27. Jean-Louis-Charles Pauquet also portrayed Josephine seated in her imperial robes in an engraving (after a drawing by Isabey) published on the day of the coronation (fig. 3)28.
Fig. 3 - Jean-Louis-Charles Pauquet, after Jean-Baptiste Isabey, Grand Habit de Sa Majesté l’Impératrice Joséphine, le jour du couronnement, First Empire, etching : 33.9 × 25.4 cm. Montreal, McGill University, Napoleon collection, rare books, 4°O X 002.
Inscriptions : Dessiné par Isabey // Gravé à l’eau forte par Pauquet // Déposé à la Bibliothèque Impériale.
- 29 Todd Porterfield and Susan L. Siegfried, Staging Empire : Napoleon, Ingres, and David, University (...)
13These depictions of the unconventional seated pose probably signified Josephine’s right to be enthroned as a result of her sacre and coronation, which set her apart from most French queens. In his coronation portrait, Gérard deliberately recalled the seated pose from his 1801 portrait of Josephine as Madame Bonaparte (fig. 1), stiffening her posture in accordance with the formality of a court costume but retaining a note of ease in his representation of her as a modern sovereign. Guillon-Guillaume Lethière achieved a similar affect in his Joséphine de Beauharnais, impératrice des Français (1807, Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon), if for very different reasons. The seated pose in his portrait was intended to mirror its pendant, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Napoléon Ier sur le trône impérial (1806, Paris, Musée de l’Armée), which was consciously archaizing29.
- 30 For a detailed discussion of this symbolism in relation to Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Napoléo (...)
14The historical symbolism of Josephine’s costume was no less important than its insistent modernity and it seamlessly wove in elements of medieval, Renaissance, and seventeenth-century dress. These historical borrowings were designed to give the ceremonial garb a gloss of longstanding legitimacy. While previous regimes had blended old and new, the Napoleonic costumes and coronation ceremonies did this in a highly strategic way. Coming in the wake of the Revolution, and centered on a Corsican parvenu, the invention of symbolism for the sacre was an anxiously controlled and politically freighted affair. The regime’s need to shore up its questionable political legitimacy was partly expressed through its inclusive references to the nation’s history30. The resulting bricolage of historical elements is especially noticeable because the costumes and symbolism of the Napoleonic court were invented from scratch.
- 31 Quoted in P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 269 ; and Le Sacre de Sa Majesté…, op. cit., pl. ‘L’Impératice Jo (...)
- 32 On David’s study of medieval illuminated manuscripts and the History of Saint Louis in preparation (...)
15The costume’s layering of historical associations on top of current fashions is exemplified by the sleeve of Josephine’s coronation dress. The sleeve perpetuated and modified the fashionable mitten- and balloon-sleeves of the 1790s by changing the fabric and introducing trimmings that brought out historical associations. As represented in several paintings, the puff sleeve was cut on the bias and softly gathered to form diagonal ridges that were studded with rows of diamonds along the raised edges and embroidered with rows of golden leaves in the sunken furrows. The design and colouristic affect of this embroidery evoked the slashing and layering of Renaissance styles. In the 1790s, the mitten sleeves worn by the merveilleuses had been called ‘en “Amadis”’, alluding to the Spanish romance of a knight errant, Amadis de Gaula (1508). The coronation dress strengthened such historical associations in replacing fine muslin with a dense, buttery satin that could physically support the heavy embroidery and precious stones. The Cérémonial de l’empire français (1805) and Le Livre du Sacre (1807-15) described Josephine’s dress as having ‘manches longues, de brocart d’argent, entièrement semée d’abeilles d’or. Elle est brodée sur toutes les tailles. Le bas de la robe est brodé également et garni de franges et de crépine d’or. Le corsage et le haut des manches sont enrichis de diamants’31. Sheathing the arms and much of the hands with solid knuckle-length sleeves connoted feminine modesty in the moral domain of the body, and in this regard marked a departure from the provocative allure of the sleeveless chemise dresses and diaphanous muslin sleeves of the previous decade. Jacques-Louis David accentuated the moral decency of the coronation costume in his officially commissioned scene of the ceremony, Sacre de l’empereur Napoléon Ier et couronnement de l’impératrice Joséphine (1808, Paris, Musée du Louvre), by posing the empress in profile, kneeling with her hands in prayer, arms demurely covered. This echoed the poses of female donor figures depicted in the illuminated medieval manuscripts and Renaissance paintings studied by David in preparation for this painting32.
- 33 The association of Napoleon with William the Conquerer is discussed in T. Porterfield and S. Siegf (...)
- 34 Explication des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture et gravure des artistes vivans, expo (...)
16Embroidery also acquired particular historical connotations at the Napoleonic court, where it was avidly revived. The narrow bands of embroidery decorating the front of the skirt and its bottom edge were called à la reine Mathilde, referring to the wife of William the Conqueror. According to legend, Queen Matilda embroidered the story of her husband’s invasion of England on the Bayeux Tapestry (ca. 1077, Bayeux). This precious relic was brought to Paris and exhibited in the Louvre’s Galerie d’Apollon from 8 December 1803, in conjunction with Napoleon’s preparations for a military invasion of England. An illustrated catalogue of the tapestry was produced on this occasion and four hundred copies of it were given to Generals Davout and Soult for distribution to the army (which was then massed at Boulogne), as a form of historical propaganda intended to inspire and prepare the men for the invasion. This was one of several politically opportunistic associations of Napoleon with William the Conqueror33. The invocation of Queen Matilda represented their feminine counterpart, one that reinforced the traditional, deeply gendered association of women with needlework. The title of the 1803 catalogue made that association explicit – Notice historique sur la tapisserie brodée par la reine Mathilde, épouse de Guillaume le Conquérant – by evoking an image of the queen as a wife, stitching while her husband was away at war, much as Penelope had occupied herself with weaving while waiting for Ulysses to return home. Auguste Garneray, Leroy’s collaborator and a designer of costumes and sets for the Opéra, reflected the topicality of the subject in his painting La reine Mathilde, exhibited at the Salon of 1808, which showed the medieval queen ‘dessinant sur sa tapisserie les faits de la conquête de l’Angleterre par Guillaume le Conquérant son époux’34.
- 35 The vertical bands were usually straight but occasionally widened at the base to form a triangular (...)
- 36 Journal des dames et des modes, no. 13 (5 Frimaire an XIII [26 November 1804]), p. 107 : ‘Many dre (...)
17Allusions to Queen Matilda in the realm of fashion operated primarily at this ideological level. She became a feminine symbol for a modern style of embroidery that lost most of its specific political connotations in the process of becoming fashionable. Modern embroidery called à la reine Mathilde did not imitate motifs on the Bayeux Tapestry or its style of needlework. The resemblance was instead formal and abstract. Embroidery à la reine Mathilde was laid out in narrow vertical or horizontal bands that were thought to resemble the overall shape and continuous, densely figured style of the Bayeux Tapestry35. Notably, the colour of the thread contrasted with the cloth, distinguishing the new style from the white-on-white embroidery of neoclassical clothing, with monochrome silver or gold silk thread favoured over the colourful wools used in the Bayeux Tapestry. The Journal des dames et des modes reported on the vogue for embroidery à la reine Mathilde, noting that ‘beaucoup de robes avoient par devant, une broderie dans le genre des broderies à la Reine Mathilde’36, and ridiculing the lengths to which some women took it :
- 37 ‘Paris, le 19 Thermidor’, Journal des dames et des modes, no. 64, 20 Thermidor an XII [8 August 18 (...)
La fureur de la broderie pour le costume des Dames est portée à un tel point, qu’une petite-maîtresse fait non-seulement broder son schall, son fichu, ses ceintures, sa robe, son mameluk, sa pèlerine, ses manches et son sac à ouvrage, mais même sa chemise et son mouchoir de nez : la broderie blanche et en cotton est la seul en vogue pour les mouchoirs37.
- 38 Quoted in Fiona Ffoulkes, ‘All That Glitters... LeRoy and Embroidery’, Text : For the Study of Tex (...)
- 39 On the embroidery revival, see P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 171-74.
- 40 No material evidence of the garment or precise documentation of its decoration survives, as noted (...)
18All of this was a boon for the embroidery trade. References to Queen Matilda, as a feminine symbol of embroidery, were politically motivated in support of an economic policy that was intended to revive the dying craft of embroidery. Leroy’s major innovation as marchand de modes during the Directory had been to reintroduce the use of gold embroidery on garments, reversing the earlier Revolutionary denigration of such conspicuous signs of luxury as a ‘barbarous practice’38. The Napoleonic court extended the craft’s new lease of life by commissioning metres of intricate work, which was executed in a variety of motifs and of materials, including silk thread, gold and silver plate, cut steel and precious stones39. It is not certain which motifs were embroidered on Josephine’s coronation dress, apart from the bee, and the visual evidence is contradictory : coronation portraits commissioned from David, Gérard, Lefèvre, Isabey and others each vary in their depictions of decoration on the dress, suggesting that they painted different models, including the ‘Grande habillement’ and the ‘Petit habillement’ worn by the empress during the coronation ceremonies40. The variety of the pictorial evidence corresponds to what we know of the sheer excess of Josephine’s wardrobe. She famously did not wear the same dress twice and changed her toilette at least three times a day. The changeability of fashion in the modern sense, then, had thoroughly invaded the court wardrobe, supplanting the more rigid symbolic values that had previously been invested in luxurious textiles and ceremonial costumes during the early modern period.
- 41 Madame de Rémusat noted the chérusque as an element of the planned court costume, in Mémoires de M (...)
- 42 T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 10 ; Le Sacre de Sa Majesté…, op. cit., p. v. On the (...)
- 43 Andrew McClellan, Inventing the Louvre, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1994, p. 109, 12 (...)
- 44 On this point, see T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 145-46 and 173-75.
- 45 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, cabinet des Estampes, series N2, Portraits, Josephine, R (...)
19The raised collar of spiked lace on Josephine’s coronation costume resonated historically with a different period. It was called a collerette à la Médicis owing to its imitation of the collar worn by Marie de Médicis in Ruben’s famous painting Le Couronnement de Marie de Médicis (1622-25, Paris, Musée du Louvre). As a historicizing element of costume, the Médicis collar or chérusque had enjoyed a certain vogue under Louis XVI, particularly in fancy dress and theatre, but it acquired a particular political significance in the lead-up to the empire41. The coronation of Marie de Médicis as queen in 1610 provided a crucial political precedent for Josephine’s coronation as empress since French queens were not traditionally crowned with their kings42. Art once again was enlisted in the service of politics. Since 1802, Rubens’s celebrated Marie de Médicis cycle had been fully rehabilitated and placed on public view in the Luxembourg Palace following its suppression during the Revolution. In 1803, the critic Charles Landon featured a foldout line engraving of Le Couronnement de Marie de Médicis in his popular Annales du Musée43. The publicity surrounding this cycle, and the coronation scene in particular, helped prepare the public for the idea of the sacre and the coronation of the empress. The French tradition of grand-scale scenes of coronation ceremonies was meagre, and there were no other pictorial precedents for the coronation of a French queen. That is why David hewed so closely to Rubens’s example in the Couronnement de Marie de Médicis for his monumental painting Le Sacre44. The political role played by Rubens’s paintings also helps explain echoes of other scenes from the Marie de Médicis cycle in the imperial iconography of Josephine. Another painting in the cycle, Rubens’s equestrian portrait of Marie de Médicis, Le Triomphe de Juliers (1621-25, Paris, Musée du Louvre), served as the model for several anonymous engravings that depicted Josephine riding side-saddle, in full coronation regalia, wearing a crown and holding a sceptre (Joséphine, Impératrice des Français, couronnée en l’église cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris le 11 Frimaire an 13, 2 Décembre 1804, 1804 [Bibliothèque Nationale de France] and Joséphine, Impératrice des Français, 1804 [hand-coloured etching, Bibliothèque Nationale de France])45. Since the coronation ceremonies themselves did not include an equestrian exercise for Josephine, Rubens’s portrait would have been the only reference for these prints. Like the coronation scene, it explicitly conferred a sense of legitimacy on the new empress by re-deploying the traditional iconography of sovereignty.
- 46 Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, cabinet des Estampes, series N2, Portraits, Josephine, R3 (...)
20To return to the Médicis collar motif, it was prominently depicted in official portraits of Josephine, and exaggerated in some as if to draw attention to its symbolic value. The collar took on a life of its own in Henri-François Riesener’s Portrait en pied de l’Impératrice Joséphine (fig. 4). Here it is doubled and raised, closely imitating the style of the collar depicted in Rubens’s painting. The collar was also featured in Robert Lefèvre’s L’Impératrice Joséphine en robe de cour à chérusque (1807, Aix-la-Chapelle, hôtel de ville ; and bust-length variant, Châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau). Popular prints from the period emphatically emphasized the Médicis collar, along with the crown, as if insisting on symbolic elements that legitimated Josephine’s sovereign status46. Pauquet’s seated image of the empress is one example (fig. 3). Another is Henri Buguet’s bust-length engraving Joséphine Impératrice des Français et Reine d’Italie (hand-colored engraving, Bibliothèque nationale de France). Buguet’s engraving was almost certainly indebted to a painted model such as the Riesener portrait. With the Rubens prototype standing behind the painting and the engraving, both works demonstrate the propensity of visual images to generate their own conventions of representation, particularly when, as with the Rubens prototypes, they played a seminal role in authorizing political symbolism.
Fig. 4 - Henri-François Riesener, Portrait en pied de l’impératrice Joséphine, 1806, oil on canvas : 2.35 × 1.3 m. Malmaison, châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau, inv. N. 3097.
- 47 Journal des dames et des modes, no. 13, 5 Frimaire an XIII [26 November 1804], p. 107 : ‘standing (...)
- 48 The Age of Napoleon…, op. cit., p. 90 and 105 ; and P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 174-82.
- 49 Journal des dames et des modes, no. 13, 5 Frimaire an XIII [26 November 1804], p. 107 : ‘some wome (...)
21The chérusque captured the popular imagination as one of the most romantic elements of the costume. The Journal des dames et des modes reported on women wearing Médicis collars to the Opera and described two versions of them – those that ‘par derrière, avaient plus d’un pied d’élévation’ ; and à la Cyrus, rising in fans over each shoulder and narrowing to a point at the back47. The chérusque was intended to revive the flagging lace-making crafts in France, like the lace cravat that formed part of men’s court costume. The blonde or gold lace collar of Josephine’s coronation costume was made in Alençon, for example. Government subventions proved less successful in this area than in the silk and embroidery trades, however48. The Journal des dames et des modes noted that colerettes à la Médicis were being fabricated out of less expensive materials than lace such as linen and tulle and that ‘quelques femmes, en robe de velours, avaient leur colerettes en linon’49.
- 50 H. Bouchot, op. cit., p. 161–253 ; F. Ffoulkes, ‘Quality…’, op. cit., p. 194-96.
22With its ensemble of historical references, Josephine’s coronation dress became the model for court costume for princesses of the Napoleonic Empire and women at its satellite courts in Lucca, Naples, Holland, Westphalia, and Spain as well as for any woman presented at these courts, as attested by contemporary fashion plates and Leroy’s account books. The basic model was a high-waisted dress with either long or short puff sleeves, made of French silk or satin, with or without a lace chérusque, over which a train, usually of coloured velvet, was worn50. Women at the British court still wore the wide hoops of the old regime in the early decades of the nineteenth century, but the captivating new style of grand habit designed for Josephine spread to other courts in Europe and was maintained in France after 1815 by the restored Bourbon court. These were very clear indications of Josephine’s success in merging the latest Paris fashion with the formal ceremonial costume of the modern court.
- 51 P. Mansel, Dressed to Rule, op. cit., p. 87-89.
- 52 The Age of Napoleon…, op. cit., p. 109-13.
- 53 According to the Duchess d’Abrantès, Napoleon limited the embroidery on the border of a gown to fo (...)
- 54 P. Mansel, op. cit., p. 81. The finances of the court are discussed in Philip Mansel, The Court of (...)
23In marked contrast to the transformation of women’s court costume in the early nineteenth century, men at European courts outside the French orbit resisted Napoleon’s revival of the habit habillé. They turned instead to military uniforms and civil uniforms, as seen in Isabey’s drawing of representatives to the Congress of Vienna in 1815 (The Royal Collection, Windsor Castle)51. Napoleon obliged his male courtiers to wear silk breeches with matching jackets and waistcoats that were even more highly embroidered with floral designs and more sumptuously decorated than they had been during the Ancien Régime52. The use of ornate embroidery and lace in both male and female court dress sent costs soaring and Napoleon eventually had to reintroduce a form of sumptuary law to save his courtiers from too much expense53. All the same, he encouraged lavish spending on clothing, and opened special financial credits for his courtiers for this purpose, in order to make his court appear more splendid, magnificent, and glittering than other courts in Europe. Most observers agreed that he accomplished this aim54. Yet the ostentatious habit habillé of the Napoleonic court was out-of-step with prevailing European fashions in men’s clothing, which favoured pared-down attire, including at courts.
- 55 Unlike existing scholarship on imperial portraits of Napoleon (Philippe Bordes and Alain Pougetoux (...)
- 56 E. Delorme, op. cit., p. 24–25 and fig. 14, as Empress Josephine with an Herbarium on the Table be (...)
- 57 T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 64 and 68, fig. 3.3 as discussed above, p. 240.
- 58 Corps legislative, Arrêtes de Questure (14 May 1806–17 August 1811), session of 26 August 1806, 16(...)
- 59 T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 88-89.
24Very little is known about the function and audience intended for large-scale paintings and sculptures of Josephine, though judging by the number and ambition of these they were clearly a significant aspect of the pictorial culture of the regime55. The majority of officially commissioned life-size portraits of Josephine in her coronation robes appear to have been sent to foreign courts and offices of the imperial government. The audience for the imperial symbolism of their costumes was primarily administrative and diplomatic. For example, Napoleon evidently presented Robert Lefèvre’s L’Impératrice Giuseppina (1805, Rome, Museo Napoleonico) to the city of Aachen, while Andrea Appiani’s Portrait de l’impératrice Joséphine, en costume de reine (Châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau) was probably intended for Milan, given its depiction of Milan cathedral in the background56. In Paris in 1806, the Corps législatif commissioned a full-length portrait of Josephine in her coronation robes from Lethière, Joséphine de Beauharnais, impératrice des Français, to serve as a pendant for Ingres’s Napoléon Ier sur le trône impérial, which it had just purchased57. The Ingres portrait, and presumably Lethière’s, were meant to be placed ‘dans le salon de M. le Président où il a l’honneur de recevoir, au nom du Corps législatif, Sa Majesté l’Empereur lorsque’elle vient faire l’ouverture de la session annuelle’58. Although the paintings were temporarily deposited in a different room in the building in 1807,59 the legislature’s intention in purchasing them was clear. They were intended to fulfil the customary function of a painted portrait of a monarch and his consort, to represent the sovereign in locations where his power was administered.
- 60 Miniatures of the empress were exhibited in 1806 (Explication des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, (...)
- 61 The other exception was the exhibition of Ingres’s and Lefèvre’s portraits of Napoleon at the Salo (...)
- 62 Explication des ouvrages… 1808, op. cit., p. 37, cat. no. 241.
- 63 Explication des ouvrages… 1808, op. cit. p. 96, cat. no. 652 (Chinard), and p. 102, cat. no. 704 ( (...)
25Very few official portraits of Josephine (or Napoleon) were exhibited publicly in Paris. Dominique-Vivant Denon, the general director of museums, tightly controlled the exhibition of images of the head of state and generally only allowed artists to submit small-scale portraits of them such as miniatures and reproductive engravings60. The notable exception was the Salon of 180861. Denon orchestrated an impressive display of figureheads of imperial power at this exhibition, centered on David’s majesterial Sacre de l’empereur Napoléon Ier et couronnement de l’impératrice Joséphine. The exhibition was also filled with full-length portraits of members of the imperial family, ministers, dignitaries, generals and leaders of other nations, executed by artists such as David, Gérard, Lefèvre, Kinson, Chinard, and Houdon. Large groups of portraits by individual artists were shown, including works executed several years earlier. Denon would have to have authorized the unusually retrospective character of these exhibits, and he no doubt facilitated the loan of paintings and sculptures from different branches of government. Gérard’s Josephine en grand costume (fig. 2) was featured in the array62. Chinard’s marble bust of Josephine in her imperial regalia and Houdon’s more classicizing marble bust of the empress were the two other officially commissioned portraits of her on display (both, Musée national des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon)63. In 1808, the public was treated to no fewer than four impressive formal portraits of the empress.
- 64 France in Russia…, op. cit., p. 96, cat. no. 42.
- 65 Jean Guiffrey, ‘L’Œuvre de Pierre-Paul Prud’hon’, Archives de l’art français, n. s., t. XIII, 1924 (...)
26An evolution in the ideology of the female ruler of France was manifested in the deep divisions between representations of Josephine’s ceremonial and more private personae. Important paintings of her outside the formal court context circulated during the period, which make the visual iconography of her especially interesting. The most famous portraits of Josephine executed after her coronation, and while she was still empress, dispensed with imperial trappings : Pierre-Paul Prud’hon’s L’Impératrice Joséphine dans le parc de Malmaison (1809, Paris, Musée du Louvre) and Antoine-Jean Gros’s L’Impératrice Joséphine (1808, Nice, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire). (Firmin Massot and Adam Wolfgang Töpffer’s full-length Portrait de Joséphine [1812, Saint Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum] was executed after her divorce)64. These portraits indulged Josephine’s personal preference for simplicity in dress and portrayed her in essentially private and intimate moments. Oddly, they stage informal poses and settings in the grand manner of a full-length portrait. The sitter seems to have been no less invested than the artists in their creation as works of art. For example, Josephine is said to have given Prud’hon fifteen sittings65. The ambition of these informal portraits was unusual and distinguished them from such earlier portraits of the queen in a private mode as Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s three-quarter length Marie-Antoinette en chemise (1783, Germany, Private collection). If the portraits of Josephine were intended for public exhibition, as seems likely, they would have presented an image of the empress at odds with the ceremonial of the court. In any case, they could not be exhibited publicly in Paris after her divorce in 1809. As portrayals of the empress they remain paradoxical in turning Josephine’s identity as a private individual into an object of speculation that was inextricable from her public status as empress or ex-empress.
- 66 Explication des ouvrages… 1806, op. cit., p. 56, cat. no. 297 (Lafond), and p. 61, cat. no. 332 (L (...)
27Another shift in the pictorial culture of empire was apparent in genre paintings that depicted Josephine. One particularly interesting example of a departure from Ancien Régime precedents were publicly exhibited paintings of the empress carrying out traditional acts of charity and munificence that were expected of the monarchy and also, more unusually, associating her with the emperor’s military fortunes. These paintings were shown at the two Salon exhibitions that took place while Josephine was empress, in 1806 and 1808, and as such they constituted a form of propaganda for the regime : Charles-Nicolas Lafond’s L’impératrice Joséphine entourée des enfants dont elle a secouru les mères (fig. 5) ; Hippolyte Lecomte’s Vue du lac de Garde, which shows her escape from enemy fire during a voyage to join her husband (1806, Châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau) ; and Nicolas Antoine Taunay’s S. M. l’Impératrice recueillant les ouvrages des artistes modernes (1808), and S. M. l’Impératrice en voyage reçoit un courrier qui lui apprend la nouvelle d’une victoire (1808, Châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau)66 .To the extent that these paintings represented Josephine performing her role as empress, and implicitly made a claim for it, they were indicative of the new regime’s need and desire to legitimate itself in the court of public opinion.
- 67 The purchase of Lafond’s painting is recorded in Archives nationals de France, O2 838, dos. 2, ord (...)
28The genre paintings portrayed Josephine as a modern individual dressed in daywear rather than ornate court costume as she carried out the duties of her office and her marriage. For example, Lafond clad her in minimally adorned cotton dress, veil, and cashmere shawl – the attire of a fashionable Paris lady – in his scene of her visit to a maternity hospital (fig. 5). Such a visit was a charitable act, but it was also peculiarly personal to her situation as an empress under political pressure to produce an heir. The relative simplicity of her dress in Lafond’s painting underscored her commonality with the mothers and pregnant women she was visiting, and played up hopes for her maternity. Lafond also highlighted her difference from the common women by dressing her in white compared with their dark and sombre clothing. The artists who exhibited these genre paintings executed them on speculation, which gives us some insight into the roles that Josephine played in the popular imagination of the time. The paintings met with official approbation : the state purchased them from the Salon exhibitions for Josephine’s collection67. As with the grand-format portraits that represented Josephine as a private individual, it is difficult to imagine similar depictions of queens of France having been conceived and painted, let alone publicly exhibited, in the years before the Revolution.
Fig. 5 - Charles-Nicolas-Rafaël Lafond, L’impératrice Joséphine entourée des enfants dont elle a secouru les mères, 1806, oil on canvas : 1.465 × 1.96 m. Dunkerque, musée de Dunkerque, inv. DBA. P. 474.
29In conclusion, one might say that for all the shifting formations of styles, the official paintings of Josephine in court costume represented a modified continuation of Ancien Régime traditions. They amalgamated the conventional magnificence and formality of the portrait of the queen with a reinvention of court costume that emphasized modern fashion and historical symbolism. The other categories of painting briefly considered here, informal portraits in a grand format and genre paintings of Josephine performing her imperial role, which were also produced during her reign, were most indicative of the changed milieu in which she operated as empress.
1 Claire-Élisabeth-Jeanne Gravier de Vergennes, comtesse de Rémusat, Mémoires de Madame de Rémusat, ed. by P. de Rémusat, 3 vols., Paris, C. Levy, 1880, vol. 2, p. 54 : ‘There was no question of resuming the hoop but only of adding to our ordinary clothes this long train’.
2 Philippe Séguy, Histoire des modes sous l’Empire, Paris, Tallandier, 1988, p. 191 : ‘Fashion, first during the Directory, then during the Consulate, identified itself with her because created for her, inspired by her.’ ; ‘Ferociously worldly’.
3 P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 191 ; Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, ‘Nudity à la greque in 1799’, The Art Bulletin, 80, 1998, p. 311-35 ; and E. Claire Cage, ‘The Sartorial Self : Neoclassical Fashion and Gender Identity in France, 1797-1804’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 42, 2, 2009, p. 193-215.
4 Madeleine Delpierre, ‘Une Révolution en trois temps’, in Modes et Révolutions 1780-1804, exh. cat., Paris, Musée de la Mode et du Costume, Palais Galliera, 1989, p. 12–13 and fig. p. 18, ‘Tunique grecque’ c. 1800, bibliothèque municipale de Rouen. The construction of the chemise dress is discussed by Fiona Ffoulkes, ‘“Quality always distinguishes itself” : Louis Hippolyte LeRoy and the luxury clothing industry in early nineteenth-century Paris’, in Consumers and Luxury : Consumer Culture in Europe 1650–1850, ed. by Maxine Berg and Helen Clifford, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1999, p. 202, n. 32 ; and Janet Arnold, ‘The Classical Influence on the Cut, Construction and Decoration of Women’s Dress c. 1785-1820’, in The So-Called Age of Élégance ; Costume 1785–1820, Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Conference of the Costume Society, 1970, London, The Costume Society, 1971, p. 17-23.
5 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Cabinet des estampes, series N2, Portraits, Josephine, R32207.
6 The painting was exhibited in 1801 hors catalogue ; see France in Russia : Empress Josephine’s Malmaison Collection, exh. cat., London, Fontanka, 2007, p. 96, cat. no. 41. The anonymous engraving M[a]d[am]e Bonaparte loosely interpreted the painting ; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Cabinet des estampes, série N2, Portraits, Josephine, R32245. Johann-Friedrich Reichardt, Un hiver à Paris sous le Consulat (1802-1803), Paris, Tallandier, 2003, p. 161.
7 Pierre de La Mésangère, Collection de Meubles et Objets de Goût, Paris, Bureau du Journal des dames, 1807-34, vol. 1, no. 14, ‘Ottomanne en acajou brune, ornemens en ivoire’. A variant of the sofa appears in François Gérard’s Madame Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, ca. 1808 (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art).
8 Philip Mansel, Dressed to Rule : Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2005, p. 80.
9 Ibid., p. 81.
10 See Margaret Waller, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes : Display, Cover-Up and Exposure in Modern Masculinity’, in T. Reeser and L. Seifert, eds., Entre hommes : French and Francophone Masculinities in Culture and Theory, Dover, University of Delaware Press, 2008, p. 115-142 ; and an account by the Countess of Boigne quoted in P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 115-16.
11 These developments are summarized by F. Ffoulkes, op. cit., p. 183-205 ; see also P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 88-93, 103-04 and 120-26.
12 Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983. Napoleon’s empire was declared on 18 May 1804 ; all the designs, decorations, costumes, insignia, and programs were completed for ceremonies that took place on 2-5 December 1804 ; see Le Sacre de Sa Majesté l’Empereur Napoléon, avec notices historiques, ed. by H. Pinoteau, Paris, Éditions du Palais Royal, 1969, p. 15-33.
13 The basic references remain, on Leroy, Henri Bouchot, La Toilette à la cour de Napoléon, chiffons et politique de grandes dames (1810-1815), d’après des documents inédits, Paris, Librairie Illustrée,  ; and on Isabey, Mme de Basily-Callimaki, J.-B. Isabey : sa vie, son temps, 1767-1855, Paris, Frazier-Soye, 1909.
14 P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 191–92 ; Le Sacre de Sa Majesté…, op. cit., p. XII : ‘Femme, elle veilla singulièrement à la confection de son costume de sacre’.
15 Yvonne Deslandres, ‘Joséphine and La Mode’, Apollo, July 1977, p. 44-47 ; Claudette Joannis, Joséphine, impératrice de la mode : l’élégance sous l’Empire, Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2007.
16 For earlier models of mitten and balloon sleeve dresses, see Modes et révolutions 1780-1804, op. cit., p. 147-48, cat. nos. 61, 66-69 ; and Jehanne Lazaj, ‘Notices’, in Juliette Récamier, Muse et mécène, exh. cat., Paris/Lyon, Hazan/Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, 2009, p. 154-58, cat. nos. III.1–III.2.
17 Modes et révolutions 1780-1804, p. 158. On the vogue for the cothurne and contemporary criticism of it, see ‘Modes Parisiennes’, Journal des dames et des modes, no. 19, 4 November 1798, p. 11 ; and ‘Modes Parisiennes’, Journal des dames et des modes (Frankfurt edition), no. 28, 6 July 1801, p. 50-51.
18 Françoise Vittu, ‘1780-1804 ou vingt ans de “Révolution des têtes françaises”’, in Modes et révolutions 1780-1804, p. 41-58.
19 Xavier Salmon, De soie et de poudre : portraits de cour dans l’Europe des lumières, Versailles, Château de Versailles, 2003 and Fastes de cour et cérémonies royales : le costume de cour en Europe, 1650-1800, ed. by P. Arizzoli-Clémentel and P. Gorguet-Ballesteros, Versailles/Paris, Château de Versailles/Réunion des Musées nationaux, 2009.
20 D. Roche, op. cit., p. 278–81 ; The Age of Napoleon : Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789-1815, ed. by K. le Bourhis, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art/H. N. Abrams, 1989, p. 100 ; P. Mansel, op. cit., p. 80.
21 Victorine de Chastenay-Lanty, Mémoires de Madame de Chastenay, 1771-1815, ed. by Alphone Roserot, 2 vol. , Paris, Plon, 1896, vol. 1, p. 460 : ‘It was no longer the muslin gown with the large flat ribbon ; it was velvet and satin gowns, of every shade and every colour. It took me some time to get used to it : I could not judge the price of the fabrics and the variegations of colours offended my eyes too strongly to appear magnificent to me’.
22 Journal des dames et des modes, no. 22, 25 Nivôse an XIII [15 January 1805], p. 187 : ‘There are formal gowns in all colours of velvet : green, sky-blue, lapis [lazuli], cornflower blue, brown, nacaret [pale red], amaranth [dark red to purple]. Satin is usually white, vicuna [camel-coloured], or pale pink. Crepe is usually black’.
23 Frédéric Masson, Joséphine imperatrice et reine, Paris, P. Ollendorff, 1908, p. 92-93 ; Serge Grandjean, Inventaire après décès de l’Impératrice Joséphine à Malmaison, Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1964, p. 49, item 6.
24 Examples of trains in crimson and puce velvet survive in the collection of the Châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau.
25 The Age of Napoleon…, op. cit., p. 86.
26 Alphonse Maze-Sencier, Les Fournisseurs de Napoléon Ier et des deux impératrices d’après des documents inédits tirés des Archives nationales, Paris, H. Laurens, 1894, p. 4. See also The Age of Napoleon…, op. cit., p. 89 ; and Eleanor P. Delorme, Josephine and the Arts of the Empire, Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005, p. 167.
27 Comparable portraits of Marie-Antoinette are reproduced in Marie-Antoinette, exh. cat., Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2008, p. 139-42, cat. nos. 91, 93 and 94.
28 France in Russia…, op. cit., p. 98-99, cat. no. 47.
29 Todd Porterfield and Susan L. Siegfried, Staging Empire : Napoleon, Ingres, and David, University Park, PA, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006, p. 64 and 68, fig. 3.3.
30 For a detailed discussion of this symbolism in relation to Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Napoléon Ier sur le trône impérial, see T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 25-62.
31 Quoted in P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 269 ; and Le Sacre de Sa Majesté…, op. cit., pl. ‘L’Impératice Joséphine en costume du sacre’ : ‘long sleeves of silver brocade scattered with gold bees, embroidered on the seams ; the hem of the gown embroidered and trimmed with gold fringe ; the bodice and the edges of the sleeves enriched with diamonds’.
32 On David’s study of medieval illuminated manuscripts and the History of Saint Louis in preparation for his painting, see Autour de David. Dessins néo-classiques du musée des Beaux-Arts de Lille, exh. cat., Lille, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lille, 1983, p. 61, cat. no. 31 ; Jacques-Louis David, 1748-1825, exh. cat., ed. by A. Schnapper and A. Sérullaz, Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1989, p. 412 ; and Dorothy Johnson, Jacques-Louis David : Art in Metamorphosis, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1993, p. 194-97.
33 The association of Napoleon with William the Conquerer is discussed in T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 28-29 and 33. Dominique-Vivant Denon advised Bonaparte of his plans to bring the Bayeux Tapestry from Calvados to Paris for exhibition in a letter dated Paris, 22 Brumaire an XII [14 November 1803], Archives nationales, AF IV 1049, dossier 2. On the catalogue published in 1803, see Musée du Louvre, Dominique-Vivant Denon : l’œil de Napoléon, exh. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1999, p. 148, cat. no. 138.
34 Explication des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture et gravure des artistes vivans, exposés au Musée Napoléon, 14 octobre 1808, Paris, Imprimerie des sciences et des arts, 1806, p. 35, cat. no. 220.
35 The vertical bands were usually straight but occasionally widened at the base to form a triangular apron, as noted in the Journal des dames et des modes, no. 13 (5 Frimaire an XIII [26 November 1804]), p. 107 : ‘Beaucoup de robes avoient par devant, une broderie dans le genre des broderies à la Reine Mathilde, mais quatre fois plus large par le bas, et qui se rétrécissoit en approchant de la ceinture’.
36 Journal des dames et des modes, no. 13 (5 Frimaire an XIII [26 November 1804]), p. 107 : ‘Many dresses have down the front embroidery of the type of Queen Matilda-style embroidery’.
37 ‘Paris, le 19 Thermidor’, Journal des dames et des modes, no. 64, 20 Thermidor an XII [8 August 1804], p. 509–10 : ‘The fury of embroidery for women’s costumes is carried to such a point that a little mistress not only has embroidered her shawl, her scarf, her belts, her dress, her mameluk, her cape, her sleeves, and her workbag but even her undershirt and her handkerchief : embroidery in white and in cotton is the only thing in vogue for handkerchiefs’.
38 Quoted in Fiona Ffoulkes, ‘All That Glitters... LeRoy and Embroidery’, Text : For the Study of Textile Art Design & History, 24, 1996, p. 17-21.
39 On the embroidery revival, see P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 171-74.
40 No material evidence of the garment or precise documentation of its decoration survives, as noted in Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855), portraitiste de l’Europe, exh. cat., Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2005, p. 55. J. F. Bony’s sketch for a costume for Empress Josephine and a related sample of embroidery survive but these were not adopted for the coronation costume ; The Age of Napoleon…, op. cit., p. 169-70, plates 161 and 162. Leroy’s bill merely described the dress as ‘richement brodé et garnie de frange [richly embroidered and trimmed with fringe]’, and itemized its cost at 10,000 francs ; A. Maze-Sencier, op. cit., p. 3. A detailed description of Josephine’s two coronation costumes from the Cérémonial de l’Empire français (1805) is quoted in P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 269-70.
41 Madame de Rémusat noted the chérusque as an element of the planned court costume, in Mémoires de Madame de Rémusat, vol. 2, p. 54. See also Aileen Ribeiro, Dress in Eighteenth-Century Europe, 1715-1789, New York, Holmes & Meier, .
42 T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 10 ; Le Sacre de Sa Majesté…, op. cit., p. v. On the coronation of Marie de Médicis and the Rubens cycle, see Fanny Cosandey, La reine de France : symbole et pouvoir, xve-xviiie siècle, Paris, Gallimard, 2000.
43 Andrew McClellan, Inventing the Louvre, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1994, p. 109, 127 and 200 ; T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 145-46 and Carol Solomon Kiefer, The Empress Josephine : Art and Royal Identity, exh. cat., Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, 2005, p. 45.
44 On this point, see T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 145-46 and 173-75.
45 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, cabinet des Estampes, series N2, Portraits, Josephine, R 32221 and five variants of the equestrian portrait.
46 Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, cabinet des Estampes, series N2, Portraits, Josephine, R322202, R32201, R32216 (variants of the seated pose) ; R32193, R32204, R32240 (variants of bust-length portrait) ; and R32218, R32242, R32247, R32277 (variants of standing pose).
47 Journal des dames et des modes, no. 13, 5 Frimaire an XIII [26 November 1804], p. 107 : ‘standing over one foot high at the back of the head’ ; and Journal des dames et des modes, no. 22, 25 Nivôse an XIII [15 January 1805], p. 187 ; see also an XIII, plate 610 and plate 613.
48 The Age of Napoleon…, op. cit., p. 90 and 105 ; and P. Séguy, op. cit., p. 174-82.
49 Journal des dames et des modes, no. 13, 5 Frimaire an XIII [26 November 1804], p. 107 : ‘some women, in velvet dresses, have their collarettes in linen’.
50 H. Bouchot, op. cit., p. 161–253 ; F. Ffoulkes, ‘Quality…’, op. cit., p. 194-96.
51 P. Mansel, Dressed to Rule, op. cit., p. 87-89.
52 The Age of Napoleon…, op. cit., p. 109-13.
53 According to the Duchess d’Abrantès, Napoleon limited the embroidery on the border of a gown to four inches for those under the rank of a princess ; At the Court of Napoleon : Memoirs of the Duchess d’Abrantès, New York, Doubleday, 1989, p. 251.
54 P. Mansel, op. cit., p. 81. The finances of the court are discussed in Philip Mansel, The Court of France, 1789-1830, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988 ; and idem, The Eagle in Splendour : Napoleon I and his Court, London, G. Philip, p. 987.
55 Unlike existing scholarship on imperial portraits of Napoleon (Philippe Bordes and Alain Pougetoux, ‘Les Portraits de Napoléon en habits impériaux par Jacques-Louis David’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, sér. 6, p. 102, nos. 1374-75 [July-August 1983], p. 21-34 ; and Gérard Hubert and Guy Ledoux-Lebard, Napoléon : portraits contemporains, bustes et statues, Paris, Arthena, 1999), a systematic study of officially commissioned portraits of Josephine, whether painted or sculpted, has never been undertaken. Pending such a study, only tentative conclusions can be suggested here, based on available evidence and documented practices concerning the commission and display of contemporary portraits of the emperor.
56 E. Delorme, op. cit., p. 24–25 and fig. 14, as Empress Josephine with an Herbarium on the Table beside Her.
57 T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 64 and 68, fig. 3.3 as discussed above, p. 240.
58 Corps legislative, Arrêtes de Questure (14 May 1806–17 August 1811), session of 26 August 1806, 16v-17, no. 31, as quoted in T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 221, n. 69 : ‘In the President’s drawing room, where he will have the honour of receiving, in the name of the Corps législatif, His Majesty the Emperor when he comes to open the annual session’.
59 T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 88-89.
60 Miniatures of the empress were exhibited in 1806 (Explication des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture et gravure des artistes vivans exposés au Musée Napoléon, 15 septembre 1806 [Paris, Imprimerie des sciences et des arts, 1806], p. 80, cat. no. 410 [Parent]) and in 1808 (Explication des ouvrages, 1808, p. 12, 14 and 70, cat. nos. 75 [Bouvier], 93 [Karpff], and 459 [Parant]). In 1808 Desnoyers exhibited his officially commissioned engraving after Gérard’s coronation portrait of Napoleon (Explication des ouvrages… 1808, op. cit., p. 113-14, cat. no. 790).
61 The other exception was the exhibition of Ingres’s and Lefèvre’s portraits of Napoleon at the Salon of 1806 ; see my discussion of the circumstances surrounding their unusual display in T. Porterfield and S. Siegfried, op. cit., p. 70-88. It was presumably at Josephine’s request, and with Denon’s permission, that an amateur named Rollin exhibited Un couronnement de l’Impératrice in 1808, described as an ‘effet de clair-obscur’ that belonged to the empress (Explication des ouvrages… 1808, op. cit., p. 81, cat. no. 539).
62 Explication des ouvrages… 1808, op. cit., p. 37, cat. no. 241.
63 Explication des ouvrages… 1808, op. cit. p. 96, cat. no. 652 (Chinard), and p. 102, cat. no. 704 (Houdon). Both sculptors had previously exhibited portrait busts of Josephine at the Salon of 1806, possibly the same or different works ; Explication des ouvrages… 1806, op. cit., p. 107, cat. no. 574 (Chinard, as executed in marble) and p. 111, cat. no. 602 (Houdon).
64 France in Russia…, op. cit., p. 96, cat. no. 42.
65 Jean Guiffrey, ‘L’Œuvre de Pierre-Paul Prud’hon’, Archives de l’art français, n. s., t. XIII, 1924, p. 36, as quoted in Sylvain Laveissière, Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, exh. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, distributed by Harry N. Abrams, 1998, p. 183.
66 Explication des ouvrages… 1806, op. cit., p. 56, cat. no. 297 (Lafond), and p. 61, cat. no. 332 (Lecomte) ; Explication des ouvrages… 1808, p. 85, cat. no. 575 (Taunay).
67 The purchase of Lafond’s painting is recorded in Archives nationals de France, O2 838, dos. 2, ordonnance 6409 (2,500 francs). On Lecomte’s painting, see French Painting 1774-1830 : The Age of Revolution, exh. cat., Detroit, Wayne State University Press, 1974, p. 526-28, cat. no. 118. Taunay’s paintings were in Josephine’s collection upon her death ; S. Grandjean, op. cit., p. 157, no. 1128.Top of page
|Fig. 1 - Baron François Gérard, Portrait de Joséphine, ca. 1801, oil on canvas : 178 × 174 cm. Saint-Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, inv. GE 5674.|
|Fig. 2 - Baron François Gérard, Joséphine en grand costume, 1808, oil on canvas : 214.1 × 160.5 cm. Fontainebleau, musée du château de Fontainebleau, inv. N 18 ; 309 EM.|
|Fig. 3 - Jean-Louis-Charles Pauquet, after Jean-Baptiste Isabey, Grand Habit de Sa Majesté l’Impératrice Joséphine, le jour du couronnement, First Empire, etching : 33.9 × 25.4 cm. Montreal, McGill University, Napoleon collection, rare books, 4°O X 002. Inscriptions : Dessiné par Isabey // Gravé à l’eau forte par Pauquet // Déposé à la Bibliothèque Impériale.|
|Fig. 4 - Henri-François Riesener, Portrait en pied de l’impératrice Joséphine, 1806, oil on canvas : 2.35 × 1.3 m. Malmaison, châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau, inv. N. 3097.|
|Fig. 5 - Charles-Nicolas-Rafaël Lafond, L’impératrice Joséphine entourée des enfants dont elle a secouru les mères, 1806, oil on canvas : 1.465 × 1.96 m. Dunkerque, musée de Dunkerque, inv. DBA. P. 474.|
Susan L. Siegfried, « Fashion and the Reinvention of Court Costume in Portrayals of Josephine de Beauharnais (1794-1809) », Apparence(s) [Online], 6 | 2015, Online since 25 August 2015, Connection on 26 May 2016. URL : http://apparences.revues.org/1329Top of page
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