This lavishly illustrated volume explores the ways in which Napoleon's consort, "the incomparable Josephine," made use of art and patronage in the fashioning of her royal identity. Josephine (1763-1814) was a prominent public figure, an arbiter of taste, and one of the most popular French consorts, but only in recent years have scholars begun to assign her any significant political and cultural authority. Josephine played a vital role in the emperor's rise to power, and she made significant contributions to his propagandistic exploitation of the visual arts. "The Empress Josephine: Art and Royal Identity" contributes to the current reassessment of the empress, adding new insights about her patronage, influence, and status in the political and cultural life of her times. Carol Solomon Kiefer explores the image and iconography of the empress in official and unofficial portraits as well as in British caricatures and French popular prints, miniatures, sculpture, and decorative arts.
Josephine's collecting interests and patronage are examined - from horticulture, botanical illustration, and the design of her garden at Malmaison to fashion, commemorative projects, and contemporary art, including women artists and the painters of the Troubadour style. Other key themes include Josephine's role as a collector, her promotion of the medieval revival of the early nineteenth century, and her place in the celebrated painting of the coronation by Jacques-Louis David. Additional essays by Bernard Chevallier and Alain Pougetoux provide a brief history of Malmaison and a discussion of Josephine's collection of paintings and her role as patron.