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21 August 2009

Joséphine's Tent-o-mania

Napoléon's consort, Joséphine, was renowned for her flawless taste and to say that the creation of the severely chic Empire style could be laid at her feet wouldn't be entirely an exaggeration. Nowhere did her personal style more crystallize than at her country house Malmaison.

Its smaller scale and unofficial status gave Joséphine freer reign to express herself with more intimate spaces not held hostage to the demands of pomp and ceremony. Lucky for us, Malmaison was opened as a museum in the early 20th century and continues to be the purest expression of the former imperatrice's taste.

I am currently reading Joséphine and the Arts of the Empire and in a chapter on her interiors, scholar Eleanor DeLorme notes that Joséphine adored tents and took any opportunity she could to incorporate them into her design schemes.

Even the very entrance to the chateau was a tent, which DeLorme points out, went against any sense of protocal.... also according to DeLorme, Napoléon was not a fan and thought it looked like a cage for animals

On her visits to Napoléon on campaign, Joséphine would have seen tents like these made of striped ticking. Napoléon's own tents were always blue and white striped, and Joséphine is known to have bought huge quantities of the stuff....

although this photo of French soldiers on campaign dates to the second half of the 19th century, it gives us an idea of Napoléon's time

At the smallest opportunity, Joséphine would order makeshift tented shelters for an outdoor entertainment or refreshment of which alas I can find no pictures, BUT this great lady of style and imagination didn't limit herself to the out-of-doors....

Bonaparte's campaign tent was what she set out to recall...

with his Council Chamber at Malmaison. It received great acclaim, and has been imitated and inspired many, including Madeleine Castaing (who greatly admired Joséphine's taste) below in the '50s....


Louis-Martin Berthault designed this bedroom for Joséphine after her divorce. The room is almost circular, with sixteen raspberry wool-draped sections surrounding the canopied bed.

Watercolors by Redouté of flowers from Joséphine's garden were hung on the walls, further embellishing this rich room where she died in 1814.

By contrast, her mirrored and white-tented boudoir was much simpler....

Napoleon often chastized Josephine for her outrageous bills for passementerie. According to DeLorme, she promised her upholsterer an extra 10,000 francs more if he would keep it "simple"!

A similar white scheme was employed for her boudoir at Compiègne, which she took great pains decorating, but never got the chance to spend the night in.



Photo #3 by rucher.orgeval on flickr; photo #8 meddeb3 on flickr

12 comments:

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

This is a woman who knew how to camp.

little augury said...

Just the most luxurious details- you always give me just the right amount of information- an art EEE (I still struggle with).Josephine it seems had a typical husband as decorating goes- complain complain- I don't like it(well, too late).It cost too much (but you know you love showing off. The battle of the sexes rages on. Love this post. I have a set of books on her I was given as a gift- that I am going to hunt up now and get inspired, thanks for the nudge! g

home before dark said...

Love the tented look. I've been saving tear sheets of tented/draped rooms for years. When mentioned, it is often Napoleon who gets the credit for the style and not Josephine. Imagine that!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

EMILY-
This such a fantastic post.
I am going to be visiting Malmaison--for the third or fourth time--next week. It is always a thrill--so full of hope and romance and elegance. And usually there is noone there...bliss.
I was especially interested to see your photo in her boudoir--with you reflected in the mirror. I have been known to quickly take a snap like that, as a record of being there, and sometimes to see what is also reflected in the mirror. Compiegne-I must visit if possible.
Cheers and see you in San Francisco, www.thestylesalonist.com

Lynne Rutter said...

that's it. i need a baldachin over my bed!

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

la - I too thought it was funny to hear that Napoleon, who gets a lot of credit for her style, was groaning about her bills! you must look through those Josephine books and report back in full!

home, you must tent something! you could start small - perhaps a dog bed?

DDS - so jealous you are revisiting Malmaison - it is astonishing how it always seem to be empty when it is so close to Paris and such a gem! That was actually meddeb3 from flickr reflected in the mirror - hope she doesn't mind! It would be so fun to meet in San Fran - looking forward to it! EEE

Lynne, you do. Baldachins, wine and bread - that is the stuff of life. oh - and chocolate.

little augury said...

I would love to tour Malmaison with you, et al, DDS,You should or some other fabulous person should organize an exclusive trip.la

Lynne Rutter said...

and champagne, don't forget the champagne!

Janet said...

10,000 francs well spent! That Josephine really knew how to pitch a tent.

elizabeth said...

Josephine's room where she died! The PVE Design of your header is so great!

pve design said...

There are campers and then there are campers.
Josephine knew how to camp. I have never considered camping, until now.
pve

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting........

I came across your article whilst viewing The Duke of Wellington's Apsley House, The drawing room of which draws inspiration from the Campain tent interiors of Malmaison.

Being a Designer and builder of luxury tentage structures and recreating many antique designs, i find Josephine's penchant for tented interiors very inspiring for our next project - a decadent mobile dining room.

Some of your readers might be interested in the Grand Pavilion structures on the website www.lpmbohemia.com

However, being a descendent of Admiral Nelson, Napoleon's Naval Nemesis i have to reign in my total appreciation of all things Napoleana!