Jewellery, painting, sculpture


Past: March 12 → June 29, 2014

On the occasion of the bicentenary of Empress Josephine’s death at Malmaison on 29 May 1814, this exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg seeks to renew the image of a woman who left a deep imprint on French history; 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.

Table toilette tuileries medium
Eloi Lignereux, Table de Toilette de Madame Bonaparte aux Tuileries, vers 1800-1803 140 × 132 × 73 cm © Rmn — Grand Palais / Daniel Amaudet

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, the Victoria & Albert Museum, H.R.H. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and the contribution of the Malmaison collections.

An exhibition organised by the Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais in collaboration with the Musée national des châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau

Chief curator: Amaury Lefébure, director of the Musée national des châteaux de Malmaison et Bois-Préau

  • Visit March 17 → June 29, 2014

    A speaker from the museum will share with the audience the story of Joséphine, from her Creole origins to her marriage with Napoléon Bonaparte, from her role as sovereign to her life after divorce, all through her prestigious artworks drawn from the empress’ collections. Every day at midday (except bank holidays).

  • La visite Parents-Enfants : Joséphine, sur le bout des doigts Visit March 23 → June 21, 2014

    Vêtue de velours, de soie, de dentelles ou de cachemire, Joséphine, reine et impératrice arbore les plus belles robes de son époque. Parients et enfants sont invités à écouter l’histoire de sa vie, au cœur de la grande histoire de France, et effleurez du bout des doigts les étoffes qui ont fait ses plus belles parures.

    À partir du 23 mars : le dimanche à 14h30 (sauf jours fériés) et les samedis 29 mars, 12 et 19 avril, 3, 10, 17 et 24 mai, 21 juin à 14h30. Pendant les vacances scolaires, visite supplémentaire le vendredi à 14h30 .

  • Les rencontres du jeudi (18h30) Meeting March 27 → June 19, 2014

    — Jeudi 27 mars, Joséphine et son image, avec Amaury Lefébure, commissaire de l’exposition et Olivier Palatre, scénographe de l’exposition
    — Jeudi 10 avril, Joséphine et l’empire de la mode (intervenant à définir)
    — Jeudi 22 mai, Conservation, technique et ornements du style Empire, avec Patrick Vastel, Isabelle Tamisier-Vetois et Olivier Lebossé, professeurs à l’Ecole Boulle.
    — Jeudi 19 juin, Napoléon et les femmes, avec Jean Tulard, historien. Séance dédicace au musée de 17h à 18h avant la conférence

  • La Contre-visite : Les coulisses d’une fashionista Visit April 12 → June 14, 2014

    En compagnie d’une historienne de la mode, les visiteurs s’initient à l’art et la manière de porter vêtements et accessoires à l’époque de Joséphine.

  • Un samedi au musée Event April 12 → May 31, 2014

    Saturday 12 April and 31 May, a musical journey with students from the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Rueil-Malmaison. Free access upon presenting an entrance ticket from the day.

  • Un mercredi soir pour débattre (18h30) Meeting May 14 → June 4, 2014

    “Fashion, is it art?” with Pascale Gorguet-Ballesteros, head of heritage conservation at the Galliera museum (…) — “Ladies and power, from yesterday to today”, with Eliane Viennot.

  • Nuit Européenne des Musées, L’École Boulle met en scène le détail Event Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 8 PM

    Les élèves des Métiers d’Art de l’école Boulle proposent au public une immersion dans le détail des œuvres. Ils guideront les visiteurs dans l’exposition vers l’inattendu et le confidentiel, mis en scène de manière ludique et pédagogique tout au long de la nuit..

    Entrée gratuite, dernière entrée 00h15

  • Parcours croisé Musée du Louvre / Musée du Luxembourg — Un couple dans l’histoire Event June 4 → 16, 2014

    The Louvre’s collections, which Napoleon significantly enriched, bear witness — through a number of works — to the imperial saga. The public is offered the opportunity to rediscover the great chef d’oeuvres by David, Gros and Géricault… And then later to visit Napoleon’s muse, Joséphine, at the Musée du Luxembourg.

  • Fête de la Musique Event Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 6 PM

    Parcours musical avec les élèves du Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Rueil-Malmaison.

06 St Germain Zoom in 06 St Germain Zoom out

19, rue de Vaugirard

75006 Paris

T. 01 40 13 62 00


Opening hours

Late night on Monday, Friday until 10 PM

Admission fee

Full rate €13.00 — Concessions €9.00

Gratuit pour les moins de 16 ans, bénéficiaires des minima sociaux

The artists

  • Andrea Appiani
  • Eloi Lignereux
  • Pierre Paul Prud'hon
  • Joseh Chinard