September 20, 2005
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College will present The Empress Josephine: Art and Royal Identity, an international loan show focusing on Napoleon's consort, "the incomparable Josephine," from Thursday, Sept. 22, to Sunday, Dec. 18. Art and Royal Identity will explore the ways in which Josephine, like Napoleon, made use of art and patronage in the fashioning of her identity. The exhibit will open with a public reception and lecture on "Josephine and Malmaison" by Bernard Chevallier, the director of the Musée de Malmaison, Rueil-Malmaison, France, at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29, in Stirn Auditorium. Malmaison, once the residence of Napoleon and Josephine, is now the principal museum devoted to the empress.
Carol Solomon Kiefer, the curator of European art at the Mead Art Museum and curator of the exhibition, will give a gallery talk on "The Empress Josephine: Art and Royal Identity," at 12 noon on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at the museum.
Josephine (1763-1814) was one of the most popular French consorts, but her power and influence have been understated. Only in recent years has she been recognized as a figure of political and cultural authority. Although divorced from Napoleon in 1809 because she was unable to provide an heir, Josephine retained the title of empress and queen until her death. She contributed to Napoleon's propagandistic exploitation of the visual arts and played a vital role in his rise to power. The Empress Josephine: Art and Royal Identity will contribute to this revised understanding of the empress, adding new insights about her patronage, influence and status in the political and cultural life of her times.
The exhibition will explore the image of the empress in official and unofficial portraits as well as in such representations as British caricatures and French popular prints. It will reflect the range of her collecting interests and patronage-from horticulture, botanical prints and the design of her garden at Malmaison to fashion, commemorative projects and contemporary art, including women artists and the painters of the Troubadour style.
Beginning with a core group of Napoleonic works from the collection of the Mead, Kiefer has chosen some 90 objects for this exhibition. The paintings, drawings, prints, miniatures, sculpture and decorative arts will also include loans from North American and European collections, including 30 works from the Musée de Malmaison and several from the Bibliothèque Thiers, Institut de France, Paris, which houses one of the largest archives devoted to Napoleon and Josephine. Other institutional lenders include the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Brown University, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at McGill University and the Houghton Library at Harvard University.
A related exhibit, The Age of Napoleon and Josephine: Paintings, Prints, and Drawings, will be on view in the Collins Gallery at the Mead Art Museum from August 27 to Dec. 18. Chosen from the permanent collection of the Mead, this exhibition presents a selection of paintings, prints and drawings reflecting Neoclassical and other trends in art from the age of Napoleon and Josephine. Works created in the early decades of the 19th century by students and contemporaries of Jacques-Louis David, the leading artist during the reign of Napoleon, will be featured. Several recent acquisitions will be on view for the first time. Artists include Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, Pierre-Paul Prud'hon and Nicolas-Antoine Taunay.
A symposium titled Queens, Queens, Queens and Empresses will take place from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, in Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115) at Amherst College. A concert of chamber music and song, Music from the Salon of the Empress Josephine, with soprano, flute, harp and fortepiano will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30, in the Rotherwas Gallery at the Mead. The 2003 film Napoleon, directed by Yves Simoneau and starring Isabella Rossellini as Josephine, will be screened in the Mead Teaching Gallery on Thursdays, Oct. 20 and 27 and Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. A Conversation with Isabella Rossellini will take place on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 3:30 p.m., during which the actress will discuss and answer questions about her role as Josephine.
With links to courses at Amherst and other Five College institutions, The Empress Josephine: Art and Royal Identity will be accompanied by a richly illustrated scholarly catalogue by Carol Solomon Kiefer. Bernard Chevallier, the director and chief curator at Malmaison, and Alain Pougetoux, curator at Malmaison, will also contribute to the catalogue. Support for the exhibition, catalogue and related programs has been generously provided by the Drue Heinz Trust, Air France, Amherst Arts Series Fund, Georges Lurcy Lecture Series Fund at Amherst College, The Hall and Kate Peterson Fund and the following departments at Amherst College: English, European Studies, Fine Arts, French, History, Music, Russian and Women's and Gender Studies.
The Mead Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday evenings until 9 p.m. More information is available on the museum's Website at www.amherst.edu/mead or by calling the Mead Art Museum at 413/542-2335. All events are free and open to the public.
Concurrent with The Empress Josephine: Art and Royal Identity, the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Mass., will present The French Portrait: Revolution to Restoration, an exhibition of more than 50 works exploring the broad scope of French portraiture during the Neoclassical period, from Friday, Sept. 30, to Sunday, Dec. 11.