Though most people only know of his first wife Joséphine, Napoleon I of France was married twice during his lifetime. Napoleon and Joséphine were married on March 9, 1796. Their marriage was a strained one, due to Napoleon’s extensive travel and their inability to have children. Though their correspondence shows that they had once cared for one another, by 1809, Napoleon was looking to divorce Joséphine and wed another woman who could offer him money and children. He chose Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, daughter of Emperor Francis I of Austria, and great-niece to Marie Antoinette. In 1810, they were wed and, by all accounts, quite pleased with one another and their union. The Embroidery Design under discussion was commissioned around this time as a commemoration of this occasion.

The design was likely meant for a chair back or wall hanging and is, in many ways, a superb example of French empire style. During and after the French Revolution, Napoleon had risen steadily through the ranks of the military, culminating in his being crowned Emperor in 1804. As he was not of royal blood, it was exceedingly important that he create and implement motifs which could be used in place of heraldic, royal imagery. He quickly adopted Roman empirical motifs including eagles, laurels, bees, and stars – many of which can be seen in this design. Often, Napoleon’s initials, or cipher, were displayed on his personal furniture. In the center of this design are the intertwined initials 'N' and 'M'. In spite of this commemorative object, very few of the pieces that Marie-Louise received as Empress were commissioned in her honor. Several objects, including an embroidered velvet mantel, a lavishly decorated state bedchamber, and jewelry had been commissioned for Joséphine, but were returned to the state and used by Marie-Louise.

One thought on “Napoleon’s Other Wife

Do you by any chance have an image of the reverse to see the construction.
Kind regards

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