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A Los Angeles Childhood – Paris, Mardi, Tuesday – A Rainy Day spent with Josephine
Friday, 20 June 2014 19:54

The portrait of the black swans: That’s what first caught my attention, Les Cygnes Noirs. I do not believe that before this time, I had thought of Josephine. My friend Sherry told me that as a child, she became most interested in Josephine. I needed to see what the fascination was.

Josephine was born 23 June, 1763 in Martinique.  Her family called her Rose, and nicknamed her Yvette.  Rose, I thought as I walked through this exhibition of the artifacts of her life. Josephine’s love of roses, showed a passion for botany. The famous painter Pierre-Joseph Redoute was called upon to illustrate the works published under her help. So botany, flowers, black swans, emus and kangaroos, along with the Australian black swans became part of her menagerie, as well as her rose collection that was the largest of its time.

From the paintings I could see that she was quite a beauty. Napoleon fell as we say, “head over heels in love” with a woman 6 years his senior, a widow with two children. They were married 9 March 1796. He purchased Malmaison in April 1799, and although they had an agreeable divorce, she lived there with all of her wonderful flowers and animals until she died from angina gangrenosa 29 May 1810. Her tomb is in the Church of Saint-Pierre-St. Paul de Rueil, erected by her children.

What else do we know of her? She had a passion for jewelry and as Empress, she enjoyed the Crown Jewels which were supplemented by Napoleon for their coronation.

She had all the latest in stylish furnishings, including an armchair with armrests in the form of swans. She collected art for pleasure.

What I saw in this exhibition was the artifacts of a well-lived life of luxury, a passionate love story. It brought that period of French history alive for me in a way that I had never thought about before. Did I feel enriched by attending this beautiful show? Would I have expected all the joy it brought me? Click here: Josephine de Beauharnais - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And not far from where I stay, in my well-loved Luxembourg Gardens is this beautiful museum. Here I celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of the death of the Empress Josephine. From her Creole origins to her marriage to Napoleon Bonaparte, from her role as a sovereign to her life after divorce, I entered her private world and as promised, “discovered a modern woman who was passionate about travel, music and gardens.”

Thanks for reading My  Jewish Childhood Blog and traveling with me to new experiences.