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Portrait of the Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte, 1821 — Jacques-Louis David,

Portrait of the Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte

Jacques-Louis David1821

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129.5 cm100.6 cm

The sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte, Napoleon's nieces, read a letter from their father, Joseph Bonaparte, who was exiled in the United States while they lived in Brussels, Belgium, after Napoleon's fall from power. 

Jacques-Louis David juxtaposed the sisters' personalities through their expressions and attire. The elder Zénaïde appears worldly and elegant in a low-cut black velvet dress, sitting upright and protective of her younger sister. Charlotte appears timid and reticent as she shyly raises her eyes, and her dress, a modest gray-blue silk, suits her demeanor. The exiled princesses both wear tiaras and sit on a red velvet couch embroidered with golden bees, the Bonaparte family emblem.

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Jacques-Louis David

Virtuoso painter, political chameleon, complete jerk

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