"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Monday, May 23, 2016

Betsy Patterson Bonaparte

This portrait of Elizabeth Patterson (1785-1879) "The Belle of Baltimore" by Gilbert Stuart hangs in the Maryland Historical Society Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
"Elizabeth Patterson "Betsy" Bonaparte (February 6, 1785 – April 4, 1879) was an American socialite. She was the daughter of a Baltimore, Maryland merchant, and the first wife of Jérôme Bonaparte, Napoleon's youngest brother." -- Wikipedia
See: Johnson's Biographical Dictionary of America, 1906.

Betsy Patterson married Jérôme Bonaparte in December 24, 1803. Napoleon ordered the marriage annulled and demanded that Jérôme come back to France without her. When the young couple arrived in Europe, Betsy was denied permission to enter any European port and went to England where she gave birth  to a son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte known as "Bo". Prince Jérôme became King of Westphalia when he married Catharina of Württemberg in August 1807.

Jérôme Bonaparte, 1805

The label on this triple portrait in the Historical Society Museum reads:
"On February 24, 1804, Louis-Andre Pichon, the French charge d'affaires, noted that Jerome Bonaparte had remained for eight days at Gilbert Stuart's studio in Washington, DC to have his wife's portrait painted. During that period, the artist also painted Jerome. Stuart was captivated by Elizabeth and chose to paint her from three views, the only time he ever created a triple portrait. Annoyed by Jerome's critiques of his work, or perhaps due to Stuart's slow pace, the temperamental artist never completed the painting. In 1807, Stuart brought the canvas with him to Boston and placed it in his garret with additional discarded canvases. Stuart's daughter, Jane, remembered, 'this beautiful sketch of Madame Bonaparte was the idol that I worshipped.' Although Elizabeth's friend, the great art collector Robert Gilmor, Jr., successfully retrieved Jerome's portrait from Stuart in 1807, the artist refused to release his sketch of Elizabeth. Finally, in 1820 William Patterson, Elizabeth's father, obtained the portrait from Stuart and hung it in his South Street house. In addition to the few properties Patterson left his daughter, he willed her the painting. Elizabeth regarded the portrait as the only likeness that has ever been made of her. 'My other pictures are quite as like anyone else as me,' During her last years in Baltimore, she hung this portrait and the one of Jerome in her room at Mrs. Gwinn's boarding house." -- Maryland Historical Society
Betsy Patterson's tomb sits alone in Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery.

to the memory of
Daughter of 
William Patterson
And Wife of 
Jerome Bonaparte
February 6th 1785
April 4th 1879
After Life's Fitful Fever She Sleeps well


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