Laurels for Josephine and the Empire

On 17 May 2021, by Sophie Reyssat

Napoleon and Josephine’s flame has never gone out, as attested by these mementos of their reign.

Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754-1829), Portrait de l’impératrice Josephine portant le diadème du sacre orné de diamants et d’émeraudes (Portrait of Empress Josephine Wearing the Coronation Diadem Decorated with Diamonds and Emeralds), oil on canvas, red wax seal with the arms of Almeida and Ferreira de Luis Augusto Ferreira de Almeida (1817-1900), First Count of Carvalhido, gilt wood and stucco Empire frame, 60 x 48.5 cm/23.6 x 19 in. With frame: 82 x 72 cm/32.3 x 28.3 in.
Result: €262,500

Josephine’s sweet face commemorated the bicentenary of Napoleon I’s death at this two-day auction marked by nine preemptions by the Musée National de la Voiture at the Château de Compiègne, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and the Châteaux of Versailles, Fontainebleau and Malmaison.
 

After preempting various vehicle models with the same auction house on April 18, the Musée National de la Voiture at the Château de Compiè

After preempting various vehicle models from the same auction house on April 18, the Musée National de la Voiture at the Château de Compiègne continued enriching its collection with Josephine’s First Empire sleigh, which fetched €212,500. Made in the 18th century, it was modernized during the Consulate for winter sports on frozen lakes.

Jean-Baptiste Regnault painted this portrait of the Empress wearing her coronation diadem. Estimated at €100,000, it finally fetched €262,500. Her likeness is the same as in the painting of Prince Jérôme Bonaparte and Princess Katharina Friederike of Wurttemberg’s wedding, but it may have been painted during a sitting at Malmaison. A drawing of Josephine in her coronation dress sold for €62,500 (27 x 19 cm/10.63 x 7.48 in). Baron Gérard likely drew it just after the 1804 ceremony as a preparatory work for the full-length portrait in the Musée National du Château de Fontainebleau.
 

The second-highest result was for “Les Quartiers généraux”, the private Sèvres tableware service Napoleon brought with him to Saint Helena

The second-highest result was for “Les Quartiers généraux”, the private Sèvres tableware service Napoleon brought with him to Saint Helena. A dessert plate featuring “Frederick the Great and his Greyhounds in the Gardens of Sans-Souci Palace, Potsdam”, painted by Swebach in 1808 after a drawing by Denon, fetched €243,750 (diam. 23.3 cm/9.17 in).

Unsurprisingly, Napoleonic memorabilia also surpassed their estimates, such as the cambric shirt prepared for reviewing his troops after the Battle of Waterloo. Over two centuries after falling into the hands of the Emperor's enemies, it now joins a collection for €100,000. The auction also featured other items of clothing worn by Napoleon, like a pair of red silk stockings (€26,875) and, more dramatically, a strip of cambric stained with his blood from his autopsy, kept by General de Montholon and passed on to the first Duke of Bassano (€33,750). The memory of the Napoleonic era left a lasting impression on people, as Louis Béroud attested in an 1897 painting of Czar Nicholas II and the Czarina Alexandra Fedorovna paying their respects at the Emperor’s tomb at the Invalides, which fetched €43,750 (65 x 48.5 cm/25.59 x 19.09 in).

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