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French Empress Eugénie: Patron and Collector

Published on , by Susan Taylor-Leduc

When Emperor Napoleon III announced his decision to marry Eugénie María de Montijo de Guzman, Comtesse de Teba in 1853, the imperial family, European royalty and French aristocrats expressed their dismay.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1871), The Empress Eugénie, Wearing the Sash of the... French Empress Eugénie: Patron and Collector

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1871), The Empress Eugénie, Wearing the Sash of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa (Eugénie de Montijo, 1826–1920, Condesa de Teba), 1854, oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay.

Eugénie, a legendary beauty and accomplished sportswoman, fluent in French, Spanish and English, soon silenced her detractors. She became a celebrity influencer and a trendsetting fashionista of her day who strategically deployed her patronage to advance her reputation at home and abroad.   An avid collector, Eugénie conspicuously endorsed new patterns of consumption across the arts, notably in fashion and jewelry design, encouraging unprecedented industrial innovation. She helped launch the careers of the leather craftsman Louis Vuitton (1821-1892), the couturier Frederick Worth (1825-1895), and enhanced the reputation of the portrait painter Frans Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873.) In consort with the Emperor, Eugénie sponsored balls and masquerades, sumptuous Fêtes Imperiales (Imperial parties) where she displayed glittering Baccarat crystal (chandeliers and glassware), Christofle silver, and Sèvres porcelain thus promoting storied French industries. These prestigious parties helped disseminate French gastronomy and the career of the founder of haute cuisine, chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935).    Sa Majesté l'Impératrice rendant visite à Mlle Rosa Bonheur dans son atelier, de Thomery ( Her Majesty the Empress Visiting Miss Rosa Bonheur in Her Workshop in Thomery ), Auguste Victor Deroy (1825-1906) and Lix…
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