Joseph Chinard

The Empress Josephine

Chinard's concept of the Empress dates to the year after her coronation in 1804. Josephine is wearing a crown and a diamond-studded tiara, which features a cameo of her husband, Napoleon Bonaparte, against a cross of the Légion d'Honneur. Symbols of imperial power decorate her gown and mantle: the star, laurel leaf, and eagle holding a bolt of lightning, as well as the bee, Napoleon's personal emblem.

c.1805 – c. 1814
Joséphine de Beauharnais(1743–1814), Château de Malmaison, Paris, France [1]

c. 1814 –
Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg (1781–1824), the sitter's son, Munich, Germany; the Dukes of Leuchtenberg, Munich, Germany, and St. Petersburg, Russia, by inheritance [2]

by l909 – 1911/12/02
Count de Penha Longa, Paris, France [3]

1911/12/02 –
André Schoeller (1879–1955), Paris, purchased from Count de Penha Longa [4]

by 1929 –
Wildenstein & Co., Inc. (Nathan Wildenstein, 1851–1934), Paris [5]

– c.1940
Rothschild collection, Paris, France (possibly Maurice de Rothschild (1878–1957), Chateau d'Armainvilliers, Gretz-Armainvilliers, France)[6]

c.1940 –
Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), seized from the Rothschild collection [7]

– 1945/06/18
Art Repository, Alt Aussee, Austria [8]

– 1946/09/19
Munich Central Collecting Point of the U.S. Army's Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section (MFA&A), Munich, Germany, recovered from the Alt Aussee salt mines [9]

1948 – 1967/04/26
Jacques Seligmann & Co. (Germain Seligman, 1893–1978), New York [9]

1967/04/26 –
National Gallery of Canada, purchased from Germain Seligman [10]

[1] According to the introduction of the sales catalogue “Sculptures par Joseph Chinard de Lyon, (1756–1813) formant la collection de M. le Comte Penha Longa” [Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, Dec. 2, 1911, p. 13-14] the bust was commissioned by the sitter and kept at the Château de Malmaison, in the outskirts of Paris, from where it was removed by her son, Prince Eugène de Beauharnais after her death in 1814. The catalogue entry [cat. no. 33] mentions that a bust by Chinard of the Empress Josephine was exhibited at the Paris Salons of 1806 and 1808, but notes that certainly more than one version existed.

[2] See note [1]. Prince Eugène de Beauharnais was Josephine's son and Napoleon's stepson. In 1806, he married Princess Augusta Amalia Ludovika Georgia of Bavaria (1788–1851), daughter of Maximilian I of Bavaria. His father-in-law gave Eugène the title to Leuchtenberg. After the fall of Napoleon in 1814, the Prince retired to Munich. According to Georges Petit's 1911 sales catalogue the bust remained in the Leuchtenberg collection [see note 1, p. 32].

[3] In 1909, the marble bust was included in an exhibition at the Librairie Centrale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The catalogue lists Count de Penha Longa as lender [Vitry, Paul. “Expositions d'Oeuvres du sculpteur Chinard de Lyon.” Paris, Nov. 1909 – Jan. 1910, cat. no. 62]. The Count de Penha Longa sold his collection of sculptures at the Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, on December 2, 1911 [“Sculptures par Joseph Chinard de Lyon”]. The bust of the Empress Josephine was listed in this sale as lot no. 33.

[4] See note [3]. According to a note on the image of the work in the Conway Library, Parisian art dealer Schoeller purchased the bust on December 2, 1911 at the Penha Longha sale [The Conway Library, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Part IV: sculpture; microfiche no. 664].

[5] Schwark notes in his 1929 dissertation that the bust belonged to Paris art dealer Wildenstein & Co. [Schwark, Willy Günther “Die Porträtwerke Chinards.” (defence: Feb. 26, 1929), Berlin 1937, p. 52 and cat. no. 108.]

[6] During the German occupation of France the bust was taken by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) from the Rothschild collection. The marble was inventoried by the ERR, as “BOR 145, BOR being an ERR-code that stood for “Botschaft Rothschild” (embassy Rothschild)].It is not noted on the inventory card when and which member of the Rothschild family the object was taken from. Since the card was sorted in the ERR file with objects seized from the collection of Maurice de Rothschild at the Chateau d'Armainvilliers, it likely came from his collection.

[7] An inventory card of the object from the Munich Central Collecting Point confirms that the marble was taken by the ERR from the Rothschild family in Paris. The card is marked with ERR registration numbers “ERR 450” and “BOR 145” and notes on that the object was brought to the MCCP from the Nazi art repository in the salt mines of Alt Aussee, Austria, on June 18, 1945. The bust was sent back to Paris on September 19, 1946 [Munich Central Collecting Point database, Mü. no. 129, accessed July 14, 2009,].

[8] See note [7].

[9] According to the Seligmann records the marble was in the company's possession from 1948 to 1967 [Jacques Seligmann & Co. Records, 1904-1978, Archives of American Art, Box 224].

In a letter to the NGC, dated May 12, 1967, Germain Seligman mentions that the bust was seized by the Germans during the war and that it was restituted with the crown damaged, but he never disclosed when and from whom he acquired the bust [Accession records, NGC curatorial file].

[10] The National Gallery of Canada purchased the bust from Seligman on April 26, 1967 [Accession log, NGC curatorial file].

The Empress Josephine
71.1 x 44.4 x 28 cm with integral base
Credit line
Purchased 1967
Accession number