HORTENSE de BEAUHARNAIS

DAUGHTER OF AN EMPRESS
QUEEN OF HOLLAND
MOTHER OF AN EMPEROR

zaterdag 14 februari 2015

"Madame, you must wear silk!”.

 
This lavender-coloured Manteau de Cour of moire silk is the only example in the Netherlands to date of a court train from the  period during which the Netherlands were under the French rule of the Bonaparte’s. europeanafashion/centraal-museum-utrecht-
 
There was no more trade, no orders, there had been many deaths among the weavers. Napoleon was particularly enamoured of the city of Lyon: the five times he visited there are inscribed clearly in the history of the city, from his return from Italy to the Hundred Days. At each visit, he made a point of visiting the Lyon silk workshops, and had a very acute vision of what should be done to revive the industry in Lyon. There was a real desire for revival through power. From the very beginning of the nineteenth century his numerous orders of damask - a rather simple but very beautiful fabric – were used to "imperialise the royal palaces", starting with the Palace of  Saint-Cloud. These fabrics herald a new era: we see already the two typical groups of motifs of the First Empire: the floral and the geometric... From the outset Napoleon is aware power of luxury as a political instrument, for fabric as for the other decorative arts. In 1811 and 1813 he made two huge orders: it is said that these two commissions alone represented over a hundred kilometres of fabric.

There are lot of verifiable anecdotes where the Emperor is most insistant for example towards a particular person, especially Josephine: "Madame, you must wear silk!”, which was not Josephine's cup of tea. She preferred lighter fabrics, fine materials that were reminiscent of her islands, as illustrated by the dresses presented in our exhibition. Empire dresses do not look at all like the eighteenth century dresses, all made of taffeta and silk. It is known that Napoleon encouraged his marshals, generals and advisors to wear silk. There is even a 1804 decree defining the clothing of ministers: "The ministers will wear their ordinary costume, which can be buttoned and almost closed in front, made of silk, velvet or cloth with a white scarf, from which the sword is suspended [...]”. In a curious way, Napoleon's tastes meant that male clothes began to resemble those of the Ancien Regime. napoleon

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