L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Imperial husband and wife - two miniatures by Jean-Baptiste Isabey, 1810

Each miniature is 9.75 by 6.5 inches.

These portrait miniatures on ivory were intended as pendants and most likely commemorate the occasion of the marriage of Napoléon and his new empress, Marie-Louise of Austria. It is said they are dressed in their wedding clothes, but as there are several portrayals of them which are believed to represent their attire as worn that day - all of them differing slightly - it is difficult to be certain. In his portrait, the Emperor of the French is in court dress and wears the collier of the Légion d'Honneur about his shoulders, with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Iron Crown pinned to the left side of his chest. In his sword hilt is mounted the "Regent", the most famous diamond of the French crown jewels. The Empress is also wearing court dress and is resplendent in a ruby and diamond parure, the work of Nitot; from the necklace is suspended a miniature of the Emperor, also by the hand of Isabey.


The Entry of Napoléon and Marie-Louise into the Tuileries Gardens on the Day of their Wedding, by Étienne-Barthélémy Garnier, 1810.

In Paris on 2 April 1810 Napoléon married the Archduchess Marie-Louise, eldest daughter of his political foe, the Austrian Emperor Franz I; Franz had agreed to the marriage as a political peace offering, and a marriage by proxy had been performed in Vienna two weeks previously. The eighteen-year old Marie-Louise met her new husband for the first time at Compiègne on 27 March; the marriage was apparently consummated that very night and the couple left for Paris the next day. On Sunday, 1 April 1810, there was a civil wedding held in the Galerie d'Apollon of the Château de Saint-Cloud, and the following day - riding in the coronation coach, accompanied by the cavalry of the Garde Impériale and the Marshals of France - they arrived at the Tuileries Palace and processed through the Grande Galerie of the Louvre to the Salon Carré - which had been transformed into a chapel by the Emperor's architects Percier and Fontaine - where the final, religious ceremony was held.

The bridal procession through the Grande Galerie.
The religious marriage ceremony in the Salon Carré of the Louvre, by Marie-Georges-Louis Rouget, 1811.


 Napoléon présentant le roi de Rome nouveau-né à l'impératrice Marie-Louise dans sa chambre à coucher, aux Tuileries, a watercolor by the same Isabey, 1811.

It had been merely for dynastic concerns that Napoléon had told the Empress Joséphine at the end of 1809 that he must divorce her. He still loved her - and would always love her - but, now forty-six years old, she was unable to give him an heir. They were divorced in January of the next year and, only four months later, there was a new Empress of the French. A year later, on 20 March 1811, Marie-Louise gave birth to a son, the Emperor's all-important heir, and Napoléon-François-Charles-Joseph Bonaparte, roi de Rome, was the delight of his father. But three years later the Empire had fallen and Napoléon would never see his wife - the two had had an amicable realtionship - or son again, and the boy would be brought up at the Austrian court. After the abdication of his father in 1815, many of the latter's adherents referred to the boy as Napoléon II, and he would chafe at the restrictions increasingly placed on him in Austria; Chancellor Metternich was understandably worried about another Bonaparte rising to any degree of influence or power. Eventually given the title Herzog von Reichstadt, the boy also grew distant from his mother, who had married for a second time and had three more children. Described as intelligent, serious, and focused he died of tuberculosis at the age of only twenty-one.

Napoléon Ier présente le roi de Rome aux dignitaires de l'Empire, 20 mars 1811, by Marie-Georges-Louis Rouget, 1811.
L'Impératrice Marie-Louise veillant sur le sommeil du roi de Rome, by Joseph Franque, 1811.


  1. Part of the amazing Napoleon story. My favorite bit is when Napoleon grabbed the golden wreath and crowned himself emperor.

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