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The Empress Joséphine
  • Date: 1805–9
  • Object Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 60 x 49.5 cm
  • Object size: 92 x 78 x 11 cm
  • Inv: P315
  • Location: West Gallery III
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Further Reading
  • One of Prud'hon's great masterpieces as portrait painter. Prud’hon’s reputation as a portrait painter to the Imperial household was established by a commission to portray the Empress Josephine who was apparently persuaded to sit to him in 1805 by the curator of her collection, Guillaume Constantin and by the miniaturist Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767–1855). In the following years, until after the divorce of Napoléon and Joséphine in 1809, Prud'hon produced an important group of studies and portraits of Joséphine. The final full-length portrait of the commission now in the Musée du Louvre in Paris shows her sitting on a rock bench in a park setting. As it was finished after the divorce, it was not shown at the Salon. The details of the commission and the dating of the individual drawings and paintings of Joséphine are still unclear. The Wallace Collection portrait belongs to a smaller group where Joséphine looks to the right. It is closest to a drawing in Karlsruhe (Staatliche Kunsthalle) and shows the sitter in a seventeenth-century lace collar. Paintings depicting historical scenes from the preceding centuries in the so-called Style Troubadour featured prominently in Joséphine's collection.

    Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie (1763-1814) married the vicomte de Beauharnais (d.1794) in 1779, and General Napoléon Bonaparte in 1796. He crowned her Empress in 1805, but she retired to Malmaison four years later after their divorce (cf. Schopin P568).