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