Friday, March 21, 2014

Josephine at the Musee du Luxembourg

I apologize for the lack of blogging since last Friday, but somewhere over North America or the Atlantic Ocean, my little netbook malfunctioned--it worked fine Thursday morning, March 13, but wouldn't locate my profile when we arrived in our rented Paris apartment Friday morning, March 14!
On Saturday, March 15, we made use of the free Metro (more about that in another post) to attend this exhibition on the life and times of Josephine Bonaparte at the Musee du Luxembourg, described here by
One of France's most remarkable First Ladies, Josephine, is the subject of an exhibition at Paris' Musée du Luxembourg. On the occasion of the bicentenary of her death at Malmaison in 1814, the exhibition revisits through paintings and many personal items Josephine's life and times.

Josephine de Beauharnais was the first wife of Napoleon I, which made her the first Empress of France. She was born in Martinique and married at sixteen to Viscount Alexandre de Beauharnais. These were tumultuous times for France. During the Revolution's Reign of Terror she was thrown into prison along with her husband who was guillotined. She narrowly escaped death owing to Robespierrre's timely fall.

Bonaparte, then only a twenty-six-year-old general, fell for her charms and married her in 1792, less than five months after their first meeting. She rose up with him as wife of the First Consul after the coup d'etat of 18 Brumaire (1799). She became the first Empress of France, crowned by Napoleon in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (1804).

She did not bear Napoleon any children; as a result, he divorced her in 1810 to marry Marie Louise of Austria. She withdrew to Malmaison where she pursued her interests in the arts and gardening, most notably cultivating and hybridizing roses. Through her daughter, Hortense, she was the maternal grandmother of Napoléon III.

The exhibition illustrates Josephine's tastes and influence on French decorative arts showing some of her luxurious furnishings, tableware, elegant dresses and jewels. The exhibition includes many portraits including a large painting of her by Prud'hon on loan from the Louvre and another one by Gros from the Musée Masséna in Nice.

We enjoyed the exhibition, which as the article above notes, displayed many artefacts, furniture, fine porcelain, sculpture, etc. One of the most famous paintings about the Empress Josephine was not included in the exhibition because, I presume, its size precluded its display in the Luxembourg's gallery setting:
(Jacques-Louis David's The Coronation of Napoleon, from Wikipedia commons). The gift shop did feature postcards of this huge painting in the Louvre (32.1 foot by 20.4 ft). I bought the Dossier de L'Art magazine about the exhibition because it had many good photographs of artefacts we found interesting and beautiful.
The lady in the coat check asked us if we had enjoyed the exhibition, and we said yes. My husband commented on how sad it was that Napoleon had divorced Josephine because she could not or had not borne him an heir. She commented in reply that "He was not a very nice man." Mark responded, "Well, at least he didn't cut off her head, like Henry VIII!" I have taught him well.


  1. Hope you two are having a wonderful time.
    I am here in Florida, hellbent on having a 'souvenir de malmaison' rose bush. I hope I have luck finding a good rose grower on line.

  2. Yes, we did have a wonderful time; lovely weather, except for the smog a few days. Every time we come back from Paris, I start thinking about the next time we can go back!