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The Empress Josephine

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

In addition to glorifying Napoleon in his new role, the opulent coronation ceremony that David was assigned to commemorate heralded a new social order built around the imperial court. It was essential, therefore, that viewers could readily identify all the attendees. To this end, David made a great many portrait studies from live models. Here, he captures Josephine’s vulnerability, with her bent head, exposed neck, and pale skin set off by a corkscrew of dark hair falling from her diadem. In contrast to the heavy makeup and velvet cape she wore to the ceremony, she is pictured here in a simple dress and appears closer to her true age of forty-one.

The Empress Josephine, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Black chalk

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