"Joséphine" at Musée du Luxembourg in Paris
On the occasion of the bicentenary of the Empress Josephine’s death at Malmaison on 29 May 1814, the exhibition in the Musée du Luxembourg seeks to renew the image of a woman who left a deep imprint on the history of France; a woman of her time, who still incarnates an extraordinary destiny in a society in the throes of change.
When she was born in Martinique in 1763, there was no hint of the adventure that lay before her. Married at sixteen to Viscount Alexandre de Beauharnais, she was thrown into prison during the Revolution and narrowly escaped the guillotine owing to Robespierre’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: wife of the First Consul after the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799), she became the first Empress of the French, crowned by Napoleon in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 2 December 1804. On 30 November 1809 the Emperor told her what she had been dreading to hear ever since she had discovered she could not give him an heir: he wanted a divorce.
Josephine withdrew to Malmaison and thereafter indulged her taste for the arts and gardens. On her travels she had occasion to appreciate that she was still in favour with the people, who again paid their respects at her funeral in the Rueil church on 2 June 1814.
Benefiting from some remarkable loans, the exhibition evokes not only Josephine’s life but all the fields in which she left her mark, starting with the decorative arts, by showing her luxurious furnishings and tableware, and fashion, through her elaborate, elegant clothes and jewellery. Portraiture is also given pride of place with emblematic works such as a large portrait of her by Prud’hon, now in the Louvre, or one by Gros, in the Musée Masséna in Nice.
Visitors are given a glimpse the intimacy of her apartments, her taste for the most varied collections – old and modern painting, sculpture, antiquities – and her passion for gardens, flowers and birds. These little known aspects of her life illustrate the crucial role that Josephine played in setting the style in the consular and imperial period.
For the first time in France, it will be possible to gauge Josephine’s place in French art; this could not have been done without the generosity of public and private lenders, in France and abroad, such as the Musée du Louvre, the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg or the Victoria & Albert Museum and the contribution of the Malmaison collections.
- open every day from 10am to 7.30pm (night opening on Monday until 10pm).
- open from 10am to 7.30pm on April 21 and June 9
- closed on May 1
Admission fees and rates
- 11 €
- Reduced rate: 7,5 €
- Free for children under 16