Friday, May 15, 2009

Gibby disses Jérôme Bonaparte in his inimitable way

Jérôme (1784-1860), youngest brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, dared to marry an American woman, but was forced by Napoleon to divorce and marry a princess in order to strengthen the reputation of the young French king. To emphasize his rank as ruler (Germany), Jérôme commissioned grandiose state portraits of himself and his royal spouse [see post May 5 09]. But before this, c.1804, when married to Betsy, Gilbert Stuart was commissioned to do portraits of both himself and his American wife [for the Betsy portrait see post of April 28 09].
Jerome Bonaparte by Gilbert Stuart 1804; private collection

Both Betsy’s and Jérôme’s portraits not only remained unfinished, they were also never delivered to the Bonapartes. An explanation for this situation is offered by Jane Stuart in Mason p 144 [see ‘sources often used’]; “Jerome Bonaparte, the husband of Madame Bonaparte, was anxious to have her portrait completed, it having been in an unfinished state for some time, but as sitters were crowding in upon my father, this request could not be immediately complied with. Bonaparte deemed it an insult to be so neglected, and when the two came together—Bonaparte and Stuart—the painter thought that the remarks addressed to him were impertinent; the result was Bonaparte could not get possession of his own or his wifes’s portrait on any terms. He sent his friends to offer any price, but these offers made no impression on Stuart.”
and Mason quotes Dunlap; “Stuart’s manner was such as to make his sitters feel that he was not to be trifled with. Many a fne head was taken from his easel, and obliterated, or sent to the garret, for no other reason than that the sitter had broken his engagement, or had in some other way annoyed him.” p. 41

Later American painter Thomas Sully accidentally stepped on the painting of Bonaparte, and recalled that Stuart said, “You needn’t mind. It’s only a ...*#$%^*.. French barber.”



Maureen said...

This gets better and better, you're definitely writing a book here!

emikk said...

I'm liking Stuart better and better. Not taking it from the Bonaparte's!

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