France's Empress Eugenie & Emperor Napoleon III
Cotton roller print, 1855
Here's an esoteric collection, fabric celebrating the reign of the Emperor Napoleon III, who ruled France from 1848 to 1870.
A conversation print.
Conversation begins: Who is that man with the silly moustache?
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (1808-1873)
The National Archives, Kew
Printed by Samuel Matley & Sons, the Hodge Print Works in Manchester, England,
registered in 1867
These small prints often were made into children's clothing. Why would English seamstresses buy fabric depicting a French emperor? Perhaps interest generated by the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition.
Collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum
The print commemorates
an international exposition in 1855.
Building housing the 1855 exposition
Louis Napoleon was the first Napoleon's nephew, son of his brother Louis (although some skeptics would like to see a DNA test proving that.) As ambitious as the first Emperor he was elected President of the Republic but when his term of office expired he declared himself royalty and Emperor for life in a coup in 1851.
An Emperor needs an heir so he married Spaniard
Eugenie de Montijo de Guzman, Countess de Teba in 1853.
Art Institute of Chicago
Cotton print depicting the royal wedding, 1853
Two colorways, neither of them very high quality.
Handkerchief commemorating the wedding?
Eugenie became a fashion icon, leading the craze for crinolines
and hoop skirts.
Son Louis-Napoléon was born in 1856. Here the Prince Imperial looks about four,
dating this furnishing scale fabric to about 1860.
Several museums have pieces of this rather coarse decorating print.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
The furnishing fabrics have no source indicated. Perhaps they were printed in France, the cretonnes that originated in Creton, Normandy, described in 1889 in Chambers Encyclopedia:
"Printed cotton fabric used for curtains or for covering furniture...introduced about 1860. Chintz, so much employed for the same purpose in former years, is a comparatively thin printed cloth usually highly glazed. Cretonne, on the other hand, is generally thick and strong for a cotton fabric, and with a twilled, crape, basket, wave, or other figure produced on the loom. When a pattern is printed on this uneven surface (it is sometimes plain), it has a rich, soft appearance. A cretonne is rarely calendered or glazed. The thick weft threads of inferior qualities are commonly formed of waste cotton, and the patterns upon these, though often bright and showy, are as a rule printed in more or less fugitive colours."
Imperial pomp---rather tacky decorating.
It's all so chintzy.
The Prince Imperial, a silk portrait
from the Cooper-Hewitt collection
The last Napoleon died at 27 defending colonial Britain.
Post on Matley conversation prints:
Post on cretonne:
Biography of the Empress: Eugénie: The Empress and her Empire by Desmond Seward