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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Betsy Patterson Bonaparte

This 1817 portrait of Elizabeth "Betsy" Patterson Bonaparte by Fran├žois-Joseph Kinson hangs in the Maryland Historical Museum in Baltimore Maryland.
"This portrait by Kinson captures the melancholy Elizabeth felt in the years that followed the end of her marriage. Her correspondence reveals that she struggled with self-doubt and depression while trying to forge a life for herself and her son in European society. Ironically, Kinson, the Flemish painter of this portrait, served as the court painter to Napoleon and the King of Westphalia, Jerome Bonaparte, Elizabeth's estranged husband. Kinson also painted a large-scale canvas of Elizabeth holding Jeromes' (Bo's) hand and standing beside a bust of Jerome. This image call be seen on the timeline at the beginning of tile exhibition and the painting is in Hesse, Germany, formally Westphalia." -- Maryland Historical Society

Who Was She?

 "Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was a woman who charted her own destiny. Born at a time when women were defined by their domestic accomplishments and their husband's wealth, Elizabeth rebelled against the dictates of nineteenth ­century society. Late in life she recognized her independence, recording, 'like the Silkworm I spun my own suit & my own Lodging & had no aid or partner in my Labors.' After her ill-fated marriage to Jerome Bonaparte, she chose to live independently. In her 80s, Elizabeth confessed, 'Life has been to me a bitter struggle & a hard and rocky road. Her bitten1ess and disappointment often found its way into her private writings, the one place her deepest, most troubled thoughts were 'safe.' Often her words, by her own admission, were harsh. To understand her, is to recognize the two sides of her story and to appreciate the remarkable journey she took to become 'a woman of two worlds.'" -- Maryland Historical Society.

A very similar engraving from a 1915 portrait said to be in the possession of her grandson appeared in Harper's Weekly in March of 1861 when seventy five year old Betsy Patterson was unsuccessfully suing the French government to have the annulment of her marriage to Jerome Bonaparte reversed.

Jerome had died a year earlier and had been memorialized in Harper's on July 28th 1860 with a scathing obituary featuring this image of him, entitled "The Late Jerome Bonaparte, Husband of "Miss Patterson."

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