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Title Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain (1768–1844)
Collection English Heritage (Wellington Museum, Apsley House)
Artist Lefèvre, Robert (French painter, 1755–1830)
Date Earliest probably about 1808
Date Latest probably about 1812
Description

Bust, life-size. Joseph Bonaparte wears a green uniform with a yellow plastron and gold epaulettes. From his neck hangs the Golden Fleece; on his chest are the badge of the Legion of Honour and the badge and star of the Order of the Two Sicilies. Joseph was the eldest son of Charles Bonaparte and the eldest brother of Napoleon. After taking a legal degree at Pisa in 1787, he became a lawyer and then a judge at Ajaccio at the time of the Revolution. In 1794 he married Julie Clary at Marseilles. Elected deputy in 1797, he was then made ambassador to Rome by Napoleon and in 1800 he negotiated peace with the United States and with Austria. Installed by Napoleon as King of Naples 1806–08, he carried through financial reforms and earned a reputation for good government, but his period as King of Spain, 1808–13, was marred by the success of Wellington's campaigns. He was forced to leave Madrid in 1812 and lost the whole kingdom at the battle of Vitoria on 21 June 1813. After Waterloo, he retired to the U.S. under the name of Comte de Survilliers and later lived in England (1832–37) and Florence (1841–44), where he died in 1844.

Lefèvre was a pupil of Regnault in 1784 and exhibited at the Salon from 1791. In his early years he painted allegorical and mythological subjects, but concentrated increasingly on portraiture and was employed as a portrait painter by both Napoleon and his family and by Louis XVIII. Although he is still highly regarded for his attention to detail of costume and setting, his posthumous reputation has not been maintained at the height fixed by his contemporaries, who placed him on the same level as David and Gérard.

Current Accession Number WM 1629–1948
Subject figure; portrait (Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain)
Measurements 67.3 x 49.5 cm
Material oil on canvas
Notes Another portrait of Joseph by Lefèvre is in the collection of Lord Rosebery at Dalmeny, and there is a copy of WM 1629 at Stratfield Saye. For Lefèvre see T.G. Lavalley, Le Peintre Robert Lefèvre, Caen, 1902.
Rights Owner Copyright English Heritage
Author C.M. Kauffmann, revised by Susan Jenkins
 

 

 

 

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