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identified definitively, the dessert service is well docu­ mented. An eagle clutching an olive branch and arrows in its talons is the central image, bearing a red, white, and blue shield draped with a banner reading "E Pluribus Unum." The reddish-purple amaranth border contains five vignettes representing Agriculture, the Arts, Commerce, the Sciences, and Strength. Monroe's decorating choices were validated by the responses they elicited from White House visi­ tors. The Oval Saloon (today's Blue Room), princi­ pal setting for many of the French pieces, was hailed as "a most splendid room" by one guest in 1819. After visiting in 1823, Virginia Senator John Taylor described the room as "designed to impress upon for­ eign ministers a respect for the government, which may have a valuable influence upon our foreign rela­ tions."22 One special visitor to the Monroe White House surely appreciated the French decor. On October 12, 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette, who had begun a celebratory tour of the United States in late summer, was welcomed to the residence by his Revolutionary War comrade. A State Dinner in Lafayette's honor was held in the mansion the next day, no doubt featuring the Dagoty and Honore china.23 French influences were also evident in the for­ malized social etiquette instituted in the White Hou e by Jame and Elizabeth Monroe. Thi approa h. a striking departure from the more casual practices of the Jeffer on and Madison ad.mini tra­ tions was largely welcomed by the diplomatic corps but resented by many in Washington society. In an ironic twist, a pre ident whose career bad empha­ sized the virtues of Republicru1 simplicity was often perceived as cold and aristocratic by his guests. First Lady Elizabeth Monroe' d claration that she would neither make nor return social calls was also widely criticized, and her fragile health resulted in frequent absences from social func­ tions. In these instances, daughter Eliza Monroe Hay became the de facto White House hostess. Eliza's volatile temperament and repeat­ ed references to her association with Napoleon's daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais,

often proved nettlesome. Over time the Monroes relaxed some of their strict social conventions by hosting smaller dinner parties, where their charm and conviviality were remarked upon by guests.24 "A Grateful Remembrance" James Monroe's deep fondness for France and his devotion to the political and spiritual bonds of the American and French revolutions were central themes in his life. The lasting friendships he formed as a young soldier with Lafayette and DuPonceau were the first of many cordial relationships he would enjoy with their countrymen. His diplomatic service, animated by his Democratic-Republican partisan­ ship, was dedicated to preserving the alliance

James Monroe's Ties to France


between the two nations through shifting fortunes and evolving priorities. As a husband and father, Monroe introduced his family to the sophistication of upper class French society, including the fleeting glory of the Napoleonic court. As president, he employed the decorative arts and social customs of France to create an elegant style for the White House that endures to the present day. One of Monroe's most eloquent expressions of his regard for France came in his farewell message to its Directory on January 1, 1797. Disavowed by his government and uncertain of his political prospects, Monroe struck an affectionate and appreciative tone in bidding farewell to the country he so admired: As I shall always take a deep and sincere interest in whatever concerns the prosperity and welfare of the French Republic, so I shall never cease in my retirement to pay you, in return for the attention you have shewn me, the only accept足 able recompense to generous minds, the tribute of a grateful remembrance. 25 NOTES I. James Monroe, "Address to the National Convention," August 15, 1794, manuscript in clerk's handwriting signed by Monroe, Manuscripts Division, Princeton University Library, quoted in The Papers of James Monroe, vol. 3, Selected Correspondence and Papers, 1794-1796, ed. Daniel Preston (Santa Barbara: ABC/CLIO Greenwood Press, 2009), 30-31. Spelling and punctuation are presented as they appear in the original manuscript. 2. Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1990), 17. 3. Ibid., 18-19. 4. James Monroe to Sir John Sinclair, November 17, 1817, Ingrid Westesson Hoes Archives, James Monroe Museum, Fredericksburg, Va., letter box 46D. 5. The classic study of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties is Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). The relationship between the American party conflict and the French Revolution is discussed in chap. 8. 6. The French Revolution has been the subject of numerous scholarly and popular publications for nearly two centuries. A comprehensive overview is Linda S. Frey and Marsha L. Frey, The French Revolution (Westport, Conn.: ABC/CLIO Greenwood Press, 2004). 7. "Aratus," Dunlap's American Daily Advertiser, December 7, 1791, in The Papers of James Monroe, vol. 2, Selected Correspondence and Papers, 1776-1794, ed. Daniel Preston (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 521-22. Monroe's use of the pseudonym "Aratus" was inspired by Aratus of Sicyon (271-213 B.c.), a Greek general and founder of the Achaean League who "nourished a vehement and glowing hatred against tyrants." Plutarch's Lives, vol. XI, trans. Bernadotte Perrin (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962), 7. 8. The period from the convening of the National Assembly to the execution of Robespierre is examined in Peter McPhee, Robespierre: A Revolutionary Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), chaps. 9-12. Monroe's jour足 nal recorded the arrival of his fantily at the French port of Le Havre on July 31, 1794. James Monroe, account book, 1794-97, James Monroe Papers, ser. 3, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.

10. A detailed study of the Jay Treaty is Todd Estes, The Jay Treaty Debate, Public Opinion, and the Evolution of Early American Political Culture

(Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006). For a more succinct overview, see Elkins and McKitrick, Age of Federalism, 406-26. 11. Quoted in Beverly W. Bond Jr. "The Monroe Mission to France: 1794-1796," Johns Hopkins University Studies of Historical and Political Science 25, nos. 2-3 (February 1907): 57-79. 12. Ammon, James Monroe, 133-34, 137. 13. Ibid., 137-38. See also Papers of James Monroe, vol. 3, 126-27, 165-70. Adrienne Lafayette was incarcerated at five different locations beginning on September I 0, 1792. After Elizabeth Monroe's visit to the prison at the College du Plessis in October 1794, Adrienne went to a prison infirmary on the rue des Amandiers, then to the Desnos house, rue Notre-Dame des Champs. She was released from captivity on January 21, 1795. 14. James Monroe, A View of the Conduct of the Executive, in the Foreign

Affairs of the United States, As Connected with the Mission to the French Republic, During the Years 1794, 5, and 6 (Philadelphia: Benjantin Franklin

Bache, 1797). For details on Monroe's activities as governor of Virginia and appointment to his second French mission, see Ammon, James Monroe, chaps. 10, 1 I. 15. Jon Kukla, A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 254-57. 16. Documentary background on the Louisiana Purchase negotiations appears in The Papers of James Monroe, vol. 5, Selected Correspondence and Papers, January, 1803-April, 1811, ed. Daniel Preston (Santa Barbara: ABC/CLIO Greenwood Press, 2014), 34-68. See also Kukla, Wilderness So Immense, chap. 15. 17. Ammon, James Monroe, 235. Owing to French displeasure over Monroe's territorial negotiations with Spain, he and his wife were initially struck from the coronation guest list. They were re-invited after Monroe protested the slight, but were not seated with the other foreign dignitaries. 18. Stuart Liebiger, ed., A Companion to James Madison and James Monroe (Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 391-404. See also Ammon, James Monroe, chap. 15. 19. A cogent study of the War of 1812 is Donald Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, Bicentennial ed. (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2012). The decline of the Federalists and Monroe's election in 1816 are discussed in Ammon, James Monroe, chap. 19. 20. James Monroe, appraisal of personal effects, acct. 43754, voucher 86, April 18, 1817, Miscellaneous Accounts of the General Accounting Office, 1790-1894, Record Group 217, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C. 21. Monroe's use of French products in the White House is discussed in Scott H. Harris and Jarod Kearney, '"Articles of the Best Kind': James Monroe Furnishes the Rebuilt White House," White House History, no. 35 (Summer 2014): 28-45. Documentary evidence of the redecorating effort overwhelm足 ingly reflects the involvement of the president. Only one extant voucher associates Elizabeth Monroe with the work, though she likely had signifi足 cant influence on her husband's buying decisions. William Seale, The President's House: A History, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association, 2008), 1:142-44, 151. A detailed description of the Monroe dessert service and speculation on the design of the dinner service are in Margaret Brown Klapthor, Official White House China: 1789 to the Present, 2nd ed. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999), 40-47, 291, updated in William G. Allman, Official White House China: From the 18th to the 21st Centuries (Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association, 2016), 32-39. 22. Both quoted in Betty C. Monkman, The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families, 2nd ed. (New York: Abbeville Press, 2014), 62. 23. Ammon, James Monroe, 541-42. 24. Ibid., 396-408; Betty Boyd Caroli, First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama, rev. ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 17-19. Eliza's most notorious faux pas was her refusal to invite the wives of the diplomatic corps to the White House wedding of her sister Maria Hester to Samuel L. Gouverneur on March 9, 1820. 25. James Monroe, "Address to the Executive Directory," January 1, 1797, in The Papers of James Monroe, vol. 4, Selected Correspondence and Papers, 1796-1802, ed. Daniel Preston (Santa Barbara: ABC/CLIO Greenwood Press, 2012), 138-39.

9. Quoted in Ammon, James Monroe, 117.

James Monroe's Ties to France 15

Furnishings in Paris From the Directory to the Coronation of Napoleon



£ es and Elizabeth Kortright Monroe the acquisitions they were able to make during their sojourn in Paris were important. They liked the style and prestige of French goods, fashion, and design and displayed their acquisitions proudly once they returned home. Shopping in Paris is documented for both of their missions in France, 1794-96 and again in 1803, with corresponding large shipments of goods back to the United States. 1

The Monroes in Paris, 1794-96 It is indeed interesting to imagine what the Monroes saw in the way of interior and furniture design when they arrived in Paris for the first time in August 1794, just two weeks after the fall of Maximilien Robespierre and the end of the Reign of Terror. They no doubt knew of the legendary splen­ dors of French homes and mansions and would have been familiar with contemporary French furnishings from the examples Thomas Jefferson had acquired during his mission to Paris and shipped home to Virginia in 1789.2 When they finally had the opportu­ nity to discover the French capital for themselves, however, the city had been through rough years. Artistic creativity had not ceased completely, as we know from some furnishings and designs commis­ sioned by protagonists of the Revolution. Still, the city was nothing like what it had been. Most of the contents of the royal palaces and the mansions of the emigres had been sold at auction to raise money for

the war effort of the young republic, and many noble mansions had been looted by mobs. Even aristocrats who had tried to keep a low profile had been sent to the guillotine. 3 Yet, only by chance, some had survived these terrible years in Paris. The fact that the Monroes had to buy their own coach upon arriving in Paris-there being none for hire----speaks to the state of the city at this time. Under the ancien regime, a foreign ambassador would have been greeted with ceremony and prestige. Monroe was celebrated by the National Convention upon his arrival, but everything one would have expected to find in the finest European capital had been turned upside down. Above all, poverty and famine reigned, and many in Paris had more pressing needs than to care for social display. The upheaval is encapsulated in the writer Sebastien Mercier's obser­ vation that while there were no necessities available, at the same time simple shopkeepers were displaying chandeliers that had formerly adorned churches and the drawing rooms of noblemen.4 In the Paris of the 1780s, Thomas Jefferson had commissioned new furniture and silver tableware. After 1789, Monroe's predecessor Gouveneur Morris took advantage of the former royal palace sales by purchasing a suite of sitting furniture that had been Queen Marie Antoinette's at Versailles; today it sur­ vives in several U.S. museums. 5 After the government sales, the remains of pre-revolutionary Paris could be found in the shops of Parisian dealers, and it is possi-

ble that the Monroes also took advantage of this secondhand market for seized goods. At some point during their mission they acquired a set of three large French tapestries or carpets, and subsequently shipped them back to the United States. 6 Casting aside the traditional splendor and ornate refinement of the ancien regime, a new genera­ tion of young republican artists propagated new styles that were clearly in opposition to the old. Contemporaries commented on the rustic roughness and martial appearance of the new fashions and manners. The painter Armand-Charles Caraffe, a student of Jacques-Louis David, proclaimed a new architectural style for the young republic: "The pub­ lic monuments for a liberated nation may not display any resemblance with the palaces of despots."7 This ideal can be observed also in case furniture, which displayed simplified forms. Surfaces were veneered, and finely cast and chased bronze mounts were hardly ever applied.8 This minimalistic style had been known for avant-garde case furniture, such as a cabinet ordered from Bernard Molitor by the Marquis de Lafayette before 1792. As exotic materi­ als such as mahogany or satinwood were used, this austere furniture was no less expensive than the high­ ly decorated examples previously popular. Obviously, Monroe's limited financial means did not allow him to acquire furniture from such famous marchands­ merciers as Jean-Louis Collignon, Antoine-Thibault Baudoin, and Martin-Eloy Lignereux, successor of the famous Dominique Daguerre, all of whom sold new furniture but also high-quality secondhand fur­ niture coming from the revolutionary sales.9 The Monroes could have gone directly to the workshops of cabinetmakers such as Jean-Henri Riesener, Bernard Molitor, or Adam Weisweiler, who had for­ merly produced so successfully for the social elite. The Monroes opted for finely produced furniture in a simplified design that does not exhibit characteristics obviously identifying it as work of an individual maker; thus it could have been bought in any of the furniture shops in Paris. 10 In France furniture of this style and quality could be found in affluent bourgeois family homes into the early years of the nineteenth century. The Monroes followed the ideals of elegant


moderation characterized by what later came to be known as late Louis XVI or Directoire style. Their furniture shows well-balanced proportions and fine materials but very few gilt mounts. It shows some resemblance to American furniture from the Federal period, especially to that made a few years later by Isaac Vose & Son of Boston. It is more difficult to assess the kind of seating furniture the Monroes bought in Paris. However, a letter from Mary Pinckney written after a visit in 1796 to their home at the Folie de la Bouexiere, states, "Mr. Monroe's furniture is handsome, but as he ordered it with a view to take it to America, the chairs are not gilt, and do not suit the rooms." 11 That she specifically describes the furniture as not gilded reveals the image of French furniture that foreign vis­ itors would have had at the time. In fact, only a few aristocratic houses and wealthy families ordered gild­ ed seating furniture, which during the years of the First Republic and the Directory would not have been produced due to its association with the monar­ chy. As president, Monroe would specify that the French furnishings he ordered for the White House from Paris be of mahogany, but those he received were gilded. It was only after Bonaparte had named himself first consul and aimed to emulate the splendor of both Bourbon France and ancient Rome that official commissions of gilded furniture are documented. The Monroes could have bought gilded furniture on the secondhand market, but they appear not to have ·done so, and, indeed, we have no evidence of any surviving French chairs purchased by the Monroes during his mission in Paris. However, among the set now at his home, Highland (later called Ash Lawn), in Virginia, comprising a fall-front secretary, a com­ mode, a center table, and a console table, one is astonished to see an American-made armchair fol­ lowing a neoclassical model with sabre legs and carved paw feet. Thomas Jefferson also owned a set of seven mahogany armchairs with similar sabre legs. 12 It is in fact the design of the front legs of this chair that serves as a relevant testimony to the impact of the modem furniture the Monroes may have seen in Paris. The design derives from model of

a famous set of armchairs made by Georges Jacob after a design by the famous designer Demosthene Dugourc for the Marquise de Marbeuf in the spring of 1789. 13 In 1791 the design was picked up for a set of mahogany furniture that was bought by the king of Naples and is still in the royal palace at Capodimonte. 14 In Paris the Monroes were familiar with a par­ ticular public space that displayed the most radical trends in interior design: the Assembly Hall of the Convention, where Monroe addressed the delegates. In the winter of 1792-93, the architect Charles Percier had received the commission to redesign the interior of the hall, which had previously been used as the riding ring of the Tuileries palace. The room was once more altered to install a theater, and thus the conventional scheme got lost, but an engraving gives a precise idea of the austere design recalling decorations and ornaments from Roman antiquity. Only here or in the workshop of the artist Jacques­ Louis David would the Monroes have seen such radical design. David had ordered a set of mobilier d'atelier in 1786, which was designed by his student Charles Moreau and realized in mahogany by the workshop of Georges Jacob. He used these pieces as props in his paintings, and this set can be understood as the prototype of what would become the antique style after 1794. Gaspar Mayer, the representative of the Batavian Republic, is sitting on one of these chairs in his portrait by David painted in 1795. 15 The self-portrait of Constance Mayer and her father also shows the latter sitting in a "curule" armchair direct­ ly inspired by antiquity. The portraits suggest that these extravagant pieces made it into the homes of a few trendy Parisians. 16 The significant private commissions that would be formative for this new style in domestic interiors in Paris were the residence of Josephine Bonaparte in the rue de la Victoire; the home of Martin Michel Charles Gaudin, minister of finances to Napoleon; the home of the famous Juliette Recamier; and the atelier of the painter Jean-Baptiste Isabey, the earliest private commission for an interior by the team of architects Charles Percier and Pierre-Franyois­ Leonard Fontaine. These would have been commis-

sioned in the latter months of 1795 and were in place only between 1796 and 1799, most certainly after Monroe had been recalled; he left France in the spring of 1797. 17 So while the Monroes might have gotten a good impression of what would become the new trend in furniture design inspired by antiquity, for their personal use they kept with a more restrained modern style. Although influenced in the relative sobriety of their furnishings by the fact that they were to be taken to America, as Mary Pinckney had observed, the Monroes chose one of the best-known Parisian landmarks, the Folie de la Bouexiere, for their ambassadorial residence, and they reveled in its European splendor. They emblazoned their coach with the Coat of Arms of the United States to display their diplomatic social status, thus indicating that they remained loyal to pre-revolutionary modes of living. Their attitude is also reflected in the fact that they arrived in France with five domestic employees, including a gardener and a chef. Monroe was indeed well aware of his place as the representative of the United States. At La Bouexiere the discreet elegance of their sparsely displayed pieces of furniture would have made a striking contrast to the grandeur of the pavilion itself, with high French doors and windows, polychrome marble floors and fireplaces, and painted wall paneling with carved and gilded ornament. The mirrors and architectural sculpture created a stun­ ning and enchanting effect for which the building had been famous since its construction during the reign of Louis XV in 1751. The opulence and refinement of the pavilion, a building that presented the very best of mid-eighteenth-century French private architec­ ture, was commented on by visitors who came to see the Monroes, and could not be farther removed from the postulate of the republican ideal of 1791.

Furnishings in Paris from the Directory to the Coronation of Napoleon


During his first mission to France, from 1794 to 1796, James Monroe would have come to know the new aus­ tere style of furnishings inspired by antiquity and cap­ tured by artists of the period. Props used by the artist Jacques-Louis David served as a prototype of what would become the antique style. David's portrait of Gaspar Mayer (right, 1795) includes one of the chairs David ordered for his studio from Georges Jacob. The furniture was also used in David's Death of Socrates (below, 1787) and other neoclassical paintings with themes. In a self-portrait, the artist Constance Mayer includes her father sitting in a "curule" armchair (opposite, 1801). Directly inspired by antiquity, the curule was a folding seat used by Roman politicians and military officers.


Furnishings in Paris from the Directory to the Coronation of Napoleon 23

The Monroes in Paris, 1803 When the Monroes returned to Paris in 1803 after James Monroe had been commissioned to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, they found the city transformed. A new class of business and political leaders was well established, and the strong political power of Bonaparte as a first consul had returned national government to the body of one man. The nascent political elites needed to show off their newly gained social position through the interior decora­ tion of their homes, and they did so to an extent that sometimes surpassed the splendor of the ancien regime. After having lived with Josephine in the pavilion in rue de Chantereine, in 1800 Bonaparte commissioned the architects Percier and Fontaine to remodel the interior of the newly acquired country place, Chateau de Malmaison. They accomplished its decoration with reduced means and in record time, and were thus appointed official architects of the Consulate and later of the Empire. Thus they were entrusted with stage-setting the official ceremonies of government as well as inventing an appropriate style, known today as Empire, that would conquer Europe and establish a French version of classicism inspired by antiquity and the Italian Renaissance. It would remain popular for the next forty years and through­ out Europe and the United States in a variety of national variations. 18 Another means of achieving recognition for the designs in their newly conceived style, was the publication of engravings that were exported to the rest of Europe and to the United States, paving the way for the Empire style's domi­ nance and adaptability.19 In 1799 the five consuls who governed under the Consulate had established their government in the venerable royal palace of the Tuileries. After Bonaparte had proclaimed himself first consul, he evicted his former colleges and the remaining govern­ ment services from the Tuileries and decided to have the palace restored to its former magnificence as his official residence in the city. Once Malmaison no longer reflected his status, he decided to use the for­ mer royal Chateau de Saint-Cloud on the western outskirts of Paris, which he ordered to be refurnished in record time in 1802-3. For most of these projects it was Josephine, along with her long-standing confi­ dant Etienne-Jacques-Jerome Calmelet-Durosoy,



who was in charge of choosing models and furnish­ ing materials, a responsibility she happily embraced.20 Due to the tight deadlines imposed by Napoleon, new furniture was frequently bought ready-made from what was available on the Parisian furniture market, or from workshops that had been estab­ lished before the Revolution and had continued to produce quality furniture, such as those of Georges Jacob, Bernard Molitor, and Jean-Baptiste Demay. The earliest commissions for sets of gilded seat­ ing furniture for Saint-Cloud are documented in 1802. 21 But Calmelet and the administrators of the government also had first pick of furniture sequestered in storage from former noble families or the royal family that was still stylish enough to please the first consul. During the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase, Monroe met with Napoleon at both the Tuileries palace and Saint-Cloud, where he must have seen the rich splendor of the newly fur­ nished interiors. The opulence of these residences, which by now was openly displayed, no longer had anything in common with the official ideal of repub­ lican simplicity that had been so proudly declared by the artist Caraffe ·only eight years before. Instead, it demonstrated the imperial ambitions of Napoleon, who, with rich gilding, carving, and bright silks, sought to re-create the splendor of imperial Rome. Mary Berry, a British traveler who had been to Paris before 1789 but took advantage of the short period of the Peace of Amiens in 1802 to revisit the French capital, was stunned by the refurbished Tuileries: "Republican simplicity might well be excused for being startled at such magnificence. I have formerly seen Versailles, and I have seen the Little Trianon .. . but I never saw anything surpassing the magnifi­ cence of this. "21 Soon other members of the Bonaparte family began to imitate Napoleon, showing off their newly acquired social status and power by competing with each other in furnishing their new chateaux and palaces-many of which had once belonged to the nobility-with ostentatious sets of gilded seat furniture.23 During their first mission to France, the Monroes sent their daughter Eliza to the school of Madame Jeanne-Louise-Henriette Campan, a former lady-in-waiting to Marie-Antoinette, where she became a friend of Hortense Beauharnais and her

A country home purchased by Josephine Bonaparte in 1799, the Chateau de Malmaison reflects the style of the early French Empire created for Napoleon and his wife by Charles Percier and Pierre-Franrois-Leonard Fontaine. Used by the Bonapartes for official meetings, formal receptions, concerts, and balls, the chateau remained Josephine's home until her death in 1814. Today Malmaison is a national museum, and the preserved rooms reflect the era of Napoleon I The Council Room on the ground floor, also known as the Tent Room, was furnished to resemble a campaign field tent with the striped fabric forming the tent. The table of the Council and gilt wooden seats, covered with red cloth, were delivered by Jacob Freres in 1800. The X-shaped stools with arm rests designed by Percier were inspired by Roman examples from antiquity. It was in this room that the Louisiana Purchase was negotiated by James Monroe and Robert Livingston and the deal was made. Furnishings in Paris from the Directory to the Coronation of Napoleon 25

The refurbished Salon of the Four Seasons in the Hotel de Beauharnais, Paris. Built in 1714, the building was redecorated for Eugene de Beauharnais in 1803 and redesigned in the Empire style. James Monroe could have visited this room during his second mission to France.

brother Eugene, the children of Josephine from her first marriage with Count Alexandre de Beauharnais, who died on the guillotine during the Reign of Terror. This friendship would last long after their return to the United States. Due to this relation, it is indeed possible that the Monroes had visited the Hotel de Beauharnais. This urban palace was acquired for Eugene in 1803 and was sumptuously redecorated over the following two years under the direction of Josephine and Calmelet, who spared no expense. The splendor displayed in its recently restored salons reflects the change in taste and the gilded glory that the Monroes would have seen on their second mission in Paris, so very different from their experience in the previous decade. NOTES I.

The following publications give information about the Monroes' acquisi­ tions: Scott H. Harris and Jarod Kearney, "'Articles of the Best Kind': James Monroe Furnishes the Rebuilt White House,"While House History 35 (Summer 2014): 2�5; Hans Huth, "The White House Furniture at the Time of Monroe," Gazette des Beaux-Arts 29 (January 1946): 23-46; Clement E. Conger and Betty C. Monkman, "President Monroe's Acquisitions," Connoisseur 192 (1976): 56-63. Monroe's notebooks and account books in the James Monroe Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., would permit a more in-depth and systematic analysis than is possible in this brief article.


Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello (New York: Harry Abrams, I 993), gives a clear idea of Jefferson's buying habits in terms of modern French design.


In this context the liberation from prison of Adrienne Lafayette by James Monroe and his wife was a typical case of last-minute salvation. See Harlow Giles Unger, The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness (Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2009), 115.


Louis Sebastien Mercier, Le nouveau Paris (Paris: Mercure de France, 1994), 634.


Pierre Verlet, Le Mobilier royal Francais (Paris: Picard, 1994), 3:30.


Tapestries and carpets are documented as having been shipped to the United States. As they were too big to fit in Highland and Monroe was often pressed for money, he sold them in 1801 to his friend James

Madison. It has not yet been possible to identify the subject of the tapes­ tries, or indeed carpets, and it is not known if they are still extant in an American collection. Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1990), 164. 7.

Quoted in Hans Ottomeyer, "Das friihe Oeuvre Charles Perciers (1781-1800)" (PhD diss., Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, 1981), 134.


The protoypes of the furniture in antique style that David had designed for use as props in his workshop between 1785 and 1790 provide a very good idea of this new style. See Denise Ledoux-Lebard, Les ebenistes du X/Xe siec/e (Paris: Les Editions de I'amateur, 1984), 271-311.


For information on these dealers, see ibid., 42 (Baudoin), 13 I (Collignon), 437 (Lignereux).

10. Harris and Kearney, '"Articles of the Best Kind."' A physical investigation of these pieces might yield further information. 11. Quoted in Betty C. Monkman, The White House: Its Historic Furnishings and First Families, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association, 2014), 58. See also James E. Wootton, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, rev. ed. (Charlottesville: Ash Lawn-Highland, 2002), 13. 12. Stein, Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, 304. 13. Christian Baulez, De Dugourc a Pernon: Les dossiers du Musee des Tissus (Lyon: Musee historique des Tissus, 1990): 3:38-39; Bill G. Pallot and Catherine Farragi, "Les sieges it l'Antique de la marquise Marbeuf," L'Estampil/e-L'Objet d'Art 306 (October 1996): 45. 14. Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, "The Furnishings of the King of Naples's Hunting Lodge at Cartidelle," Burlington Magazine 146 (October 2004): 683-90. 15. The sitter Gaspar Mayer had also been guest at the Folie de la Bouexii:re when Monroe gave a reception on July 4, 1796. Tbe furniture was also used for the iconic paintings The Death of Socrates, Oath of the Horatii, The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, and Portrait of Madame Recamier.E. J. Delecluze, Louis David son ecole et son temps (Paris: Editions Macula, 1983), 20-21. 16. Philippe Bordes, Portraiture in Paris around 1800: Cooper Penrose by Jacques-Louis David (San Diego: Timken Museum of Art, 2003), 52. 17. Elisabeth Caude, "Je desire que ma maison soit meublee dans la derniere elegance," in Josephine et Napoleon: L'HiJtel de la rue de la Victoire (Paris: RMN Architecture, 2012), 50. 18. The French cabinetmaker Cbarles-Honore Lannuier emigrated to New York, where he later established a very successful business of furniture making. He kept informed about the newest stylistic developments in Paris by familiar contacts and prints. Peter Kenny, Francis Bretter, and Ulrich Leben, Honore Lannuier: Cabinetmaker from Paris (New York: Abrams, for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998). 19. Charles Percier and Pierre-Fran�ois-Leonard Fontaine, Receuil de decora­ tions interieures, was published from 1801. Model plates for furniture, coaches. and art objects were published from 1802 as Meubles et objets de gout, by La Mesangi:re in Paris. 20. On Calmelet, see also Ulrich Leben, "From the Palace of Prince Eugene de Beauharnais to the Legation of the Kingdom of Prnssia (1803-17)," in Empire Style: The Hotel Beauharnais in Paris (Paris: Flammarion, 2016), 45--69. 21. Jean-Pierre Samoyault, Mobilier franfais: Consulat et Empire (Paris: Gourcuff Gradenigo, 2009), 59. 22. Mary Berry, Extracts of the Journals and Correspondence of Miss Berry, ed. Lady Theresa Lewis (London: Longmans, 1865), 163. 23. Bonaparte provided his mother and siblings witb houses and the financial means to furnish them lavishly in tbe new style.

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Furnishings in Paris from the Directory to the Coronation of Napoleon 27

James Monroe's White House State Furniture a la Franraise



country may be likened to a new house, we may lack many things, but we possess the most important of all-liberty!" 1 When United States Minister to FranceJames Monroe spoke these words in 1801, he was not aware of just how literal they would soon become, both for him and for the President's House. 2 Upon being elected to office in 1816, PresidentJames Monroe faced the task of rebuilding a war-torn nation and rehabilitating the President's House in the aftermath of the War of 1812. Understanding the symbolic sig­ nificance of the President's House, Monroe sought to furnish the interiors with objects that doubled as functional furnishings and patriotic propaganda. The reconstruction of the President's House was spearheaded by PresidentJames Madison and was still under way when Monroe was inaugurated on March 4, 1817. Monroe oversaw the final stages of the architectural work and took on the plans for the interior decoration. Beyond obvious function, the furnishings selected for the President's House would

This gilded beechwood armchair, upholstered in crimson silk, is one of the eighteen armchairs included in the original fifty-three-piece Bellange suite that President James Monroe purchased for the Oval Saloon (today's Blue Room) in 1817.


hold symbolic meaning and resonate stature for both Monroe and the nation. The selection of furnishings was as strategic as a political maneuver. As a politician, Monroe wished to separate him­ self from the preceding administration in many ways, interior aesthetics included.James and Dolley Madison, with architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, had filled the President's House with furnishings of the neoclassical style, copied from the contemporary English Regency fashion. The Madison interiors were, however, incinerated by the British on August 24, 1814, as Major General Robert Ross and his men invaded the District of Columbia, setting fire to many federal buildings along the way. If Monroe were to define himself in a way opposite Madison, the antithetical aesthetic to that of the English would be the French. 3 Fortunately, Monroe favored the French style, having been exposed to the culture and customs of French society during two terms of serv­ ice in Paris.4 During these two periods, the influence of Parisian dress, etiquette, cuisine, and furnishings shaped the former farm boy from Virginia into a fervent Francophile. Not all the household objects for the Monroe administration came from France, but particular places of prominence within the President's House required the finest furnishings possible. To find these articles of excellence, Monroe enlisted two American import agents based in Le Havre, France-Joseph Russell andJohn LaFarge-and assigned the com-

missioner of public buildings for the City of Washington, Samuel Lane, to directly oversee the agents' progress. On April 23, 1817, Monroe wrote to the agents, asking them to take on the mission. The deadline was imminent: all items were to be ready by September of the same year. Monroe provided specifications for many objects and had particular instructions for the furniture assigned to the Oval Saloon, now known as the Blue Room.For this space, the choice of decora­ tion was of the utmost importance due to its use for formal receptions and entertaining. With his preference for the French aesthetic, Monroe requested the furniture be made of mahogany, as that had been the fashion when he was in Paris. 5 Mahogany, known for its strength and ability to hold finely carved detail, was also a desirable material in the production of architectural features; the window sashes and doors of the President's House were made of mahogany. Monroe provided further instruction that the furniture was to feature eagles in the decora­ tion, a preference derived from the appointment of the noble bird as a national symbol in 1782 and its prominent placement on the Great Seal. The eagle was another feature Monroe saw frequently in French furnishings, as it was an icon of the Napoleonic Empire. With instructions in hand, Russell and LaFarge went to Paris to locate the menuisier en meubles (furniture maker) from whom they would order Monroe's furniture. Pierre-Antoine Bellange was a highly regarded menuisier who made elaborate objects for Emperor Napoleon I and the restored King Louis XVIII. 6 The agents, and Monroe, may not have been aware that the president had likely seen and utilized examples of Bellange's work. During his second assignment in France in 1803, Monroe worked to develop the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, which was signed in the Tent Room at the Chateau de Malmaison, one of the many homes of Napoleon and his wife, Josephine. As Bellange pro­ duced furnishings for many of the imperial palaces, Malmaison may have contained articles from his workshop. Other locations known to have Bellange commissions included the Royal Palace of Laeken in Brussels, Chateau de Saint-Cloud, Chateau de Meudon at Compiegne, Mobilier Imperial, and Hotel 30 WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number44)

de Beauharnais, as well as apartments at the Palais de Tuileries for Napoleon's son, the king of Rome. 7 Bellange's talent and capabilities were indisputable, and they fortunately kept him in good favor and earned his workshop more commissions during the reign of Louis XVIII. Although his reputation alone would have suf­ ficed, Bellange was awarded the title of "patented supplier" to Louis XVIII in 1817. It is not known exactly when or how Russell and LaFarge came into contact with Bellange's workshop, but his title no doubt assured them that he was the ideal menuisier to fill their furniture order for the President's House. Bellange's reputation came at a price and required flexibility with the furniture's outcome. After securing the order with the menuisier, Russell and LaFarge drafted two documents on September 15, 1817, and sent them to Samuel Lane. Both con­ tained unwelcomed news about the order. The first, an invoice, outlined that the furnishings, if to be made of a high quality, would cost $18,417.17. 8 In context, the budget established by Congress to fur­ nish the President's House, in its entirety, was $20,000. Monroe had previously communicated with Lane that the furnishings Russell and LaFarge acquired should be "articles of the best kind, & on the best terms."9 Monroe also authorized the acquisi­ tion of ready-made furnishings, hoping they would keep costs within a reasonable threshold.In addition to the invoice, Russell penned a letter of further dis­ appointment: Our Mr. LaFarge went to Paris in the beginning of June for this purpose, where the result of his inquiries soon convinced him that there was no possibility of purchasing any thing [sic] ready made, and in order to comply with the instruc­ tions of Your Excellency of 23rd April, he was under the necessity of ordering the whole of the Furniture to be made that he might be sure to obtain such Articles as united Strength with Elegance of Form, and combining at the same time, Simplicity of ornament with the Richness suitable to the Decoration of a House occupied by the first Magistrate of a free nation....There are many Articles bought under the price which Your Excellency had fixed, but one of the most

President James Monroe was portrayed in oil by the artist John Vanderlyn in 1822 (above left), standing beside a close approximation of one of the gilded armchairs from the suite of Bellange furniture he purchased for the White House. It is interesting to note that although the chair back is rounded in the portrait, the White House chair actually had a rectangu­ lar back. Monroe is likely to have seen the work of Pierre-Antoine Bellange while he was serving as the American minis­ ter to France from 1794 to 1796 and when negotiating the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Bellange's many royal commis­ sions included gilded furnishings for the homes of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I, whose 1812 portrait by Jacques-Louis David (above right) also features a gilded chair.

James Monroe's White House State Furniture a la Frantaise 31

James Monroe's portrait by Samuel F B. Morse hangs to the left of the fireplace in this southeast view of the Blue Room. The room is furnished with many items from President Monroe's White House including a number of the original Bellange pieces. Pictured here are five armchairs, a sidechair, and a bergere (enclosed armchair). The mahogany center table and the pier table against the wall are in the French Directoire style of the 1790s. On the table beneath Monroe's portrait is a French gilded bronze trepieds (stand) attrib­ uted to Deniere et Mate/in. On the mantel is a clock depicting Hannibal, General Commander-in-Chief of the Carthaginian armies, collecting rings from defeated Roman soldiers after the Battle of Cannae, also by Deniere et Mate/in, and a pair of French cobalt blue vases, likely by the Dagoty Porcelain Factory, with painted landscapes of Passy, France. The chan­ delier, an antique from France, is very similar to the one installed in 1817 by Monroe.


James Monroe's White House State Furniture a la Franraise 33

Company, traveled to France and reported to Monroe regarding the presence of eagle decoration on the furniture: He [LaFarge] informed me that he had directed the eagle to be placed on the chairs and some other parts of the furniture, but that bird being in bad repute at court, the workmen were ordered to desist and told that a special permission must be obtained to enable them to execute the work . .. I presume upon giving proper assurances that this bird of evil omen will speedily take his flight in America he may be permitted to perch upon the furniture of the Government house.''

One of two bergeres included in Monroe's Bellange suite of furniture, this chair was returned to the White House collection in 1972. Originally upholstered in crimson, the pieces were first upholstered in blue in 1837.

important is the Furniture for the large oval room, which costs a great deal more than what Your Excellency had calculated and which is caused by the change which we have been obliged to make of Gilt Wood instead of Mahogany.... We should also add that Mahogany is not generally admitted in the Furniture of a Saloon even at Private 10 Gentlemen's Houses. The description of the order contents and change in materials, from mahogany to "Gilt Wood," was likely further disappointing news. This was, however, not the first compromising update Monroe had received. Three months earlier,on June 4, 1817, James Brown, of Brown, Younger and 34 WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number 44)

Although Brown's optimism may have delivered a version of reassurance to Monroe, when the fifty-three-piece suite of beautifully constructed, gold-covered furniture arrived in November 1817, there was no eagle to be found. As this furniture was intended for the president of the United States,why did the agents not insist it be executed according to the specifica­ tions? Was their failure to procure the furniture Monroe wanted a product of neglect, rationalized with manifold excuses? The economic and political climate in 1817 provides answers to these questions, and thereby explains the controls that limited the practice of the Bellange workshop, thus impacting the final product of his work. As a politician intimately involved in foreign affairs and well aware of Parisian bureaucracy, Monroe insisted that Russell and LaFarge "not men­ tion for what purpose the furnishings were intended."12 This correspondence rightfully explains the behavior of the agents and indicates why they did not rebut or

argue against the furniture material and decoration produced by Bellange. Russell insisted that mahogany furniture was not available, and that the agent would have had no reason to mislead the president. Although Bellange was capable of constructing furniture made of mahogany, he and his peers did not have adequate access to the material, and had not for many years. In addition to its beauty and strength, mahogany's perceived value was a result of the high cost associat­ ed with importing it to Europe from Africa and Central and South America. England, Spain, and France had long fought over territories where these coveted trees grew (Cuba, Jamaica, and Honduras), as well as the taxes associated with the natural resource trade. Although mahogany was available at the turn of the nineteenth century, when Monroe was

Ten of Monroe's fifty-three pieces of Bellange furniture are in the White House collection today. In 1919, this armchair was given to the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, where it remains.

native resource at-the-ready for the Monroe suite. the experience of Bellange's well-coordinated work­ shop was also an important factor in guaranteeing a fast-paced production for this American commission. Although scholars have presumed the Monroe suite was likely prefabricated due to the speed in which the furniture was ordered, produced, and delivered to the United States, it is most likely that Bellange used existing design patterns. By employing existing pat­ terns or templates for the fabrication of the arms, legs, and rails of the seating furniture, the production process would have proceeded efficiently. Bellange's workshop employed many craftsmen, and the opera­ tion was well equipped to receive and produce multi­ ple large orders of furniture, as evidenced by the var­ ious commissions received during the Napoleonic reign and the subsequent restoration of Louis XVIII. Further contributing to

stationed in Paris, conflict between England and France reduced imports to Continental Europe by 1817.13 Furniture craftsmen were forced to use more readily available wood species to produce their orders, and political leaders-aware that their diplomatic decisions caused the blockade­ produced a politically convenient doctrine, like the Etiquette du Palais Imperial, that outlined a social preference for the use of native, European wood varieties. 14 For many years, Bellange employed the readily available French beech­ wood species in his workshop's furniture pro­ duction. The natural grain and coloration of beechwood did not possess the richness and beauty of mahogany and therefore required a decorative finish, such as gold leaf. Consequently, the economic agitations of the raw material trade were at the root of Monroe's order being made of an inferior material. In addition to the convenience of having a James Monroe's White House State Furniture a la Franraise 35


First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy received national attention for her rediscovery of a pier table purchased for the Monroe White House from Pierre-Antoine Bellange in 1817. The table is the only item in the fifty-three-piece suite known to have remained continuously in the White House. Surmounted by President Monroe's Minerva clock, it is now on display in the Entrance Hall seen at left, 1998. At right, Mrs. Kennedy stands in front of the Be/lange pier table to accept a season pass to the National Symphony Orchestra in October 1961. Known for her love of French fashion as well as furniture, she wears a design by Hubert de Givenchy for the presentation.

the view that the furniture was custom-produced for Monroe are the carved ornaments present on the unupholstered surfaces of the seating furniture and singular pier table. Examples of other articles of fur­ niture produced by Bellange around this time reveal more elaborate, carved surfaces. For example, the chairs Bellange produced in 1814 for the Hotel de Beauhamais music room possessed carved decorative elements that covered every exposed surface, varying in relief, detail, and subject. The suite produced for Monroe also possessed a variation in decorative ele­ ments, but there was far less detail, likely a result of a need for swift action. Bellange created many suites of furniture with alternating levels of complexity, but no two ensembles are known to be alike, negating even the possibility that these pieces were left over from another order. 15 The news delivered to Monroe regarding the inability to attain the eagle decoration followed from yet another political situation, this related to Louis XVIII. Brown's assertion about the eagle's being "in bad repute" stemmed from its association with the Napoleonic reign and the imagery Napoleon employed in his military campaigns, political propa­ ganda, and custom furnishings. An account of Napoleon's apartments described his furniture: "At

every corner is a large N; the draperies are covered with bees and each piece of furniture is surmounted with an imperial eagle." 16 Evidence of Napoleon I's legacy was found in the symbolic emblems he branded into the empire, stamping his mark on every avail­ able surface, more so than even the most vain king of France, Louis XIV. 17 After Napoleon's surrender in 1814, Louis XVIII banished physical references to the former emperor. 18 Within a year, nearly all of the remaining Napoleonic imagery, including eagles, were altered or removed from archtecture, textiles, and furniture. While the Napoleonic symbols were outlawed, Louis XVIII appreciated the general style of Napoleon I's court, particularly the furniture made by the accomplished Bellange, who was, as already noted, appointed patented supplier. The continued adherence to the style of Napoleon's court, if often simplified, meant that furniture forms from the Empire largely persisted and remained in vogue. 19 For Monroe's suite, the style of furniture Bellange produced was a fashion that transcended three vastly differing governmental structures: the dictatorship of Emperor Napoleon I, the monarchy of King Louis XVIII, and the democracy of President James Monroe. James Monroe's White House State Furniture a la Fran�aise 3 7

In 1990, the Committee for the Preservation of the White House recommended that the heavily used Blue Room be refurbished. The renovated room was unveiled by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in February 1995.

The influence of the French social system can be seen in the furniture Bellange provided the agents for Monroe with the subtle variation in hierarchal con­ struction. Among the fifty-three pieces of furniture in the Monroe order, there were five distinct styles of seating furniture: bergeres, armchairs, side chairs, sofas, and "X-shaped" stools. The presence of only two bergeres, in comparison to the eighteen arm­ chairs and eighteen side chairs, was in itself curious, and their proportion to the other armchairs was pur­ posefully larger. Although it is possible Monroe was ignorant of the bergere distinction, in that these chairs seemed to resemble monarchal thrones, chances are he was fully aware of their omnipotence. The ceremonial symbolism of seating furniture as such may have been ordered more for guests, rather than for the host and hostess. There is no known evi­ dence to support the use of the grander bergeres by Monroe; perhaps they were crafted for measures of protocol should the president receive foreign heads of state. In fact, a portrait of Monroe by the artist John Vanderlyn in 1822 visualizes the former presi­ dent with a Bellange chair, but it is neither the bergere nor a factual rendering of the actual suite. Vanderlyn portrayed Monroe in the foreground, gazing out toward the viewer, while behind him is the



President's House, only slightly visible through a window. His sword and map of Florida symbolically cover a table together, and a Bellange armchair is present with its original crimson upholstery. Unmistakably, however, this version of the Bellange armchair features a round back; the actual seating furniture was created with a rectangular back. Certainly, Monroe was familiar with the suggestive emblematic meaning of a round-back chair form, which had held a regal prestige in portraiture since antiquity and had recently been featured in the noble likenesses of Napoleon I and Louis XVIII. As the carved ornament of the featured chair legs is identi­ cal to that of the actual Bellange furniture, indicating that it was in the artist's presence when he executed the portrait, why then might he have elected to falsi­ fy the shape of the back? Did Monroe wish to echo the eternity of the circle and emulate his French counterparts? Or did Vanderlyn take this as an opportunity for political commentary, reacting to the exorbitant expense that went into the now finished President's House by visually presenting his percep­ tion of the Monroe legacy? The fanciful furnishings are, in fact, a physical part of Monroe's administration. A prophetical pro­ nouncement by Monroe, as he defended the cost of

the Bellange suite, suggests his desire for the furni­ ture to be revered and preserved in perpetuity; it is also a final foreshadowing of their existence. The furniture in its kind and extent is thought to be an object not less deserving attention than the building for which it is intended. Both being national objects ... For a building so extensive, intended for a purpose exclusively national, in which in the furniture provided for it a mingled regard is due to the simplicity and purity of our institutions and to the character of the people who are represented in it.... Many of the arti­ cles, being of a durable nature, may be handed down through a long series of service.20 The significance of the suite, nonetheless, was never fully acknowledged, but it was continually used for forty years and by ten presidents.Thoroughly worn and dated, the remaining Bellange seating fur­ niture and footstools were dispersed at an auction during the administration of President James Buchanan. For unknown reasons, the pier table stayed in the President's House, but each of the arti­ cles offered at auction was separately sold, forever separating the ensemble. A century later in 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, also known for her preference for French fashions, solicited attention from the press for her White House restoration efforts, which centered around her rediscovery of the Bellange pier table.21 The far-spreading media cover­ age surrounding her plans resulted in the identifica­ tion and location of an armchair from the suite. Soon thereafter, the chair was re-acquired, and today ten members of the original fifty-three-piece suite are a part of the White House collection. Two hundred years later, this gold-covered French furniture holds a place of prominence and retains an identity inter­ twined with the White House, both symbolic of a nation characterized by liberty. NOTES I.

Quoted in Violette M. Montague, The Celebrated Madame Campan (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1914), 266.


The title "White House" was not officially adopted as the name for the home in which the president of the United States lives and works until the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. Before that, the structure located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was provisionally referred to as the President's House, Executive Mansion, and White House.For greater detail, see Donald R. Hickey, "When Did the White House Become 'the White House'?" White House History, no. 41 (Spring 2016: 4-11).


In addition to seeking French designs, furniture made by cabinetmakers in Philadelphia and the District of Columbia, as well as other examples of existing funriture, was acquired for the President's House. The National Intelligencer, a local newspaper, reported on November 29, 1817, that the president had, in particular, "[taken] care . .. to have as much furniture made at Washington as possible."

4. James Monroe first went to France from 1794 to 1796 as U.S. minister under President George Washington. He later returned in 1803 for the Louisiana Purchase negotiations. 5.

The Etiquette du Palais Imperial of 1806, a document that outlined the new protocol and regulations of life at court, prescribed styles of furniture. It records the movement away from designs that included the use of mahogany and promoted the fabrication of heavier, more solid pieces of furniture. Etiquette du Pa/ais Imperial: Annee 1806 (Paris: De L'imprimerie Imperiale, Avril 1806).


Pierre-Antoine Bellange has been referred to as both a menuisier and an ebeniste. A menuisier is a craftsman who specializes in woodcarving and chair making. An ebeniste makes case furniture. Prior to the French Revolution, there were strict guidelines outlining the differences between what a menuisier could produce versus what an ebeniste could produce. During the rule of Napoleon 1, the guilds that separated these two practices were abolished, thus providing an opportunity for furniture workshops to expand and offer multiple furniture forms.

7. Sylvain Cordier, "The Bellange Family: Cabinetmakers in Paris from the Revolution to the Second Empire" (PhD diss., Universitie Paris-Sorbonne, 2009); Bernard Chevalier, Empire Splendor (New York: Vendome Press, 2008), 46. 8.

John LaFarge to Colonel Samuel Lane, September 15, 1817, Records of the United States House of Representatives, 18th Cong., 1st sess., Record Group 233, National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.


James Monroe to Colonel Samuel Lane, August 28, 1817, Records of the United States House of Representatives, 18th Cong., 1st sess., Record Group 233, C20.4, HR 18A-C20.4, National Archives Building.

10. Joseph Russell to James Monroe, September 15, 1817, Records of the United States House of Representatives), 18th Cong., 1st sess., Record Group 233, C20.4, National Archives Building. 11. James Brown to James Monroe, June 4, 1817, James Monroe Papers, Series I, General Correspondence 1758--1839, mss 3217, reel 6, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 12. Although this document has not been found, this letter is twice referred to in a letter from Russell and LaFarge that was addressed to James Monroe. See quotation in Hans Huth, "The White House Furniture at lhe Time of Monroe," Gazette des Beaux-Arts 29 (January 1946): 28. 13. For further reading on the state of the trade of raw materials, see Ri:ka Juhasz, "Trade and Development: Evidence from the Napoleonic Blockade" (London School of Economics, September 2014). 14. The Etiquette du Pa/ais Imperial of 1806 emphasized the greater use of native woods, found locally in France and its expanding empire. The politi­ cal atmosphere dictated the socially acceptable forms and features of furni­ ture as well as the materials from which it was made. 15. Huth, �White House Furniture," 28. 16. John Henry Manners Rutland and Elizabeth Rutland, Journal of a Trip to Paris by the Duke and Duchess of Rutland, July MDCCCXIV (London: Printed by T.Bensley, 1814), 19. 17. Philip Mansel, The Eagle in Splendour: Inside the Court of Napoleon (London: I.B. Tauris, 2015), 80. 18. A. Vincent, Fontainebleau: The Palace, the Town, the Forest (Paris: Societe D'editions Artistiques, Paris, 1926), 28. 19. Mansel, The Eagle in Splendour, 212. 20. James Monroe, "Special Message," February 10, 1818, online at American Presidency Project, ed. Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, www.presi­ dency.uscb.edu. 21. Hugh Sidey, "'Everything Must Have a Reason for Being There,"' Life, September I, 1961, 63.

James Monroe's White House State Furniture a la Franraise 39

The Folie de la Bouexiere Rediscovered James Monroe's Diplomatic Residence in Paris



a novel and bold decision for an ambassador of the young United States of America to acquire real estate during his tenure in his host country, not to mention one that had so recently undergone a revolution. Minister to the Netherlands John Adams had bought a house for the U.S. gov­ ernment in The Hague in 1782. James Monroe's Paris home, bought by himself but intended for eventual government ownership, was then the second American diplomatic property abroad. Congress was to look askance at the costs of both. Monroe chose a landmark pavilion for his diplo­ matic residence, the Folie de la Bouexiere, and he must have had a clear sense of the building's extraor­ dinary and unique features.1 His predecessors had rented. Thomas Jefferson had resided in style by rent­ ing the Hotel de Langeac on the Champs-Elysees for the duration of his mission in Paris. His successor Gouverneur Morris had rented a house situated in the rue de la Planche in the affluent Faubourg Saint­ Germain, which the Monroes subsequently occupied from their arrival in Paris in August 1794 until March 1795. 2 This house consisted of a courtyard

This plat was attached to the deed when James Monroe bought the property of Bouexiere, March 28, 1795. It shows the large extent of the park that surrounded the pavilion.

with two floors and a garden, and it belonged to the religious order of the Dames Recolettes, costing 3,500 livres in rent per year. 3 After only six months, Monroe decided it was better to own a house where he could live with his wife Elizabeth and their daugh­ ter Eliza and manage the legation. On March 28, 1795, he purchased for 350,000 francs from the archi­ tect Guillaume-Elie Le Foullon the estate and the pavilion described in the sales document thus: [A] big house in the middle of a park enclosed by walls all around, with a surrounding terrace on a hill which is the lower end of the mountain of Montmartre, commonly called the small chateau de la Bouexiere, at the end of the rue du Coq, the way to Clichy la Garenne, having its main entrance through an iron gate on the rue du Cog, providing views on Paris and its surround­ ings, bespoken park divided into formal gar­ dens, box plantations, an orchard, fruit and flower gardens. In the center of which there is a big pavilion in Italianate style that dominates the estate, a farmyard with stables and storage place and lodgings on the lower end of the gar­ den next to an iron gate, which opens on the rue Blanche. A hot house for flowers and orange trees, a well with an air press pump from which the waters are provided for the lodgings and the watering of the gardens, fountains, basins and tanks dispersed in the park.4

A map attached to the deed of sale explains the different parcels of land that formed the property at the borders, all within the city walls of Paris. A fur­ ther description of the property in the same docu­ ment described the visitor's view of the estate and some of the contents of the residence: At the entrance of the gate near the rue du Cog, or way to Clichy there are small pavilions, which are used as the lodge for the porter....Inside the gates is a paved road that crosses the park par­ tially and leads to the peristyle of the grand pavil­ ion and which is lined at the left and the right by boundary stones linked one with another by an iron chain. The grand pavilion or master lodge has a hall, drawing rooms, cabinet, bedrooms and other various rooms with all their mirrors, paneling, paintings and other ornaments which are there, and of which here there is given no more description as the purchaser declares to know it all for having visited and examined the place, and to be satisfied with what he saw. 5 The purchase of La Bouexiere provided Monroe with one of the most celebrated pleasure pavilions on the border of the French capital, a place that had been famous since its creation as a site of leisure and that con­ tained, in the middle of an extensive parkland, one of the most famous examples of a "little house" (petite mai­ son). The French term disguises the fact that the house was actually a building closer in character to a chateau and in size falling between a Palladian villa and a bour­ geois country house, with elaborate interiors and deco­ rated in a very sophisticated way.6 A peristyle, or colon­ naded porch, dominated the entrance side, and a rotun­ da faced the garden. La Bouexiere (or La Boissiere, as it was also sometimes spelled) had been the subject of a number of enthusiastic descriptions and comments by visitors, and it was in line with the finest models of French pleasure pavilions that existed at the time. One of the most famous, very much admired by Thomas Jefferson, was the larger Hotel de Salms, which had been built between 1784 and 1787 for Frederick III, the Prince of Salm-Kyrburg, by the architect Pierre Rousseau on the Left Bank.7 Even though the La Bouexiere estate was broken up and the house destroyed after 1841, it remains one of the best documentedfolies of its period. 42 WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number44)

The History of the Estate and the Building James Monroe was one of a succession of own­ ers that had put their stamp on La Bouexiere, whose history stretches back to the reign of Louis XV. The estate had originally been assembled in 1732 by a cer­ tain Alexandre-Jean-Joseph Le Riche de la Poupeliniere (d. 1762), one of the rich tax collectors (fermier general). His great wealth came from the royal patronage allowing him to keep much of what he collected, and he enlarged the property.8 In 1747 it was sold to another fermier, Fran9ois Gaillard de la Bouexiere, who transformed the existing house in a first campaign of works with the architect Jean­ Michel Chevotet. From the beginning, the pavilion was intended to serve as a hiding place on the border of the city for gallant encounters with actresses and ladies of easy virtue, as stated in a police report.9 As soon as 1751, another architect, Antoine-Martin Le Carpentier, is documented as supervising the site. The main work of building was accomplished by Carpentier's first man, Joseph-Abel Couture the elder, and, after his untimely death, his brother Guillaume-Martin Couture. When in 1762 Gallaird de la Bouexiere was removed from his position as fer­ mier general, he gave up his residence in the center of the city on place Vendome and retired to the pavil­ ion. He continued to enlarge the property by adding parcels of land and, in 1766, began extensive develop­ ment of the gardens and the house. These included an alteration of the roof structure to create a roof terrace as a belvedere on which a tent could be erect­ ed, providing stunning views above the property onto the glowing city of Paris below. Thus the pavilion was finished under the first owner, and successive owners made changes but never seriously altered the structure or the interior fittings. 10 After the death of Gaillard de la Bouexiere in 1774, the estate passed to his nephew Jean-Hyacinthe Hocquart, president of the parliament of Paris. He apparently had no inter­ est in his inheritance, selling it a short time later to the architect Guillaume-Elie Le Foullon, who in turn sold off parts of the estate for development and leased the building itself to the retired fermier Pierre de Bouilhac. A period of neglect, of both the gardens and the pavilion, followed. By the time they took over, the Monroes lived in a kind of perfect time capsule of mid-eighteenth-cen-

Published by Georges-Louis Le Rouge in 1773-77, this plan shows the extensive gardens at La Bouexiere designed in coordination with the house. Included are basins, fountains, a grotto, and sculptural garden features (identified in the key). Outside the walls of the pleasure gardens were orchards and other attributes of a small farm. The folie itself was not on the usual dead-on axis with the entrance gates but was approached by a long driveway bordered by double a/lees of trees-doubtless po/larded-up to the building's paved forecourt. The double a/lees of trees were repeated on the garden front or south of the house, terminating at a fish pool and colonnade. zo









tury French elegance, whose style and accomplish­ ment permeated every detail of the pavilion's archi­ tecture and interiors. They immediately began to par­ ticipate actively in the social life of the city, which was just awakening after the standstill imposed by the Reign of Terror (1793-94). It must have been an extraordinary experience to visit the Monroe's La Bouexiere, as the pavilion still displayed all the signs of ancien regime splendor but was furnished in a rather austere way-a setting comparable to a barely furnished twenty-first-century Parisian loft. The scheme of the French formal garden that originally surrounded the pavilion had been designed by a certain Cramer. Engravings showing the early state of the gardens were published by Georges-Louis


Le Rouge in his volume Detail des nouveaux jar dins a la mode in 1773-77, 11 when they were at their best appearance, not unlike a smaller version of the gar­ dens at the Tuilieries palace. Jean-Charles Krafft and Pierre Nicolas Ransonnette's Plans, coupes, elevations des plus belles maisons et des hotels construits a Paris (1801-12) gives another view of the property, 12 which still showed the original formal structure, with the house placed in the midst of mature trees and clusters of shrubs. This vision is confirmed by four drawings now in the collection of the White House Historical Association (see pages 52-59) that differ greatly from the original regularity of the formal gardens in the engravings by Le Rouge. 13 These changes can be attributed to the abandonment of the gardens under The Folie de la Bouexiere Rediscovered


A plan of the main floor of La Bouexiere published by Georges-Louis Le Rouge in 1773-77 shows a layout designed for pleasure and entertaining, not daily family life. Its powerful representation of Old Regime extravagance makes it seem today to be an odd choice for James Monroe's legation. The plan features a tight arrangement of round, octagonal, and oval gala rooms along the central north-south (D-C) axis with secondary rooms on the east-west ( B-A) cross axis.



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the occupation of the retired de Bouilhac, when hors­ es ran free and cattle and sheep had been allowed to graze on the property. 14 Other contemporary published descriptions of the pavilion include the works on country houses by Jean-Fran�ois Blondel. According to his ideal plans. the pavilion corresponded to the model of a Maison a l'italienne. 15 The most significant text describing the estate in detail was written by Jean-Fram;:ois de Bastide in 1752. In addition to a precise account of all the rooms and detailed descriptions of their deco­ ration, it also contains the names of craftsmen who worked on the project, all artists well known in their day. 16 Some of the actual accounts for the building are preserved in Parisian archives and list the arti­ sans who in fact realized the work. 11



A Description of the Pavilion Although the building has been destroyed and nearly all of the interior fittings are lost today, it is possible to reconstruct the appearance and layout of the pavilion by using various combinations of these documents. 18 When approaching the building from the private paved way inside the gates, one was greet­ ed by the exterior staircase that led straight to the main floor and on which vases in neoclassical style were placed. The pavilion had the shape of a rectan­ gle with canted corner. The front was dominated by the peristyle and the back by the rotunda of the cir­ cular main reception room or salon d'ete, which opened with French doors onto the large terrace of the grand perron. Behind these, smaller cabinets and very small closets would be on the level of the front. As visible from the engravings, the organization

Georges-Louis Le Rouge's drawings include the southern (meridionale)and northern (septentrionale) exterior facades. A richly detailed structure, Bouexiere was considered "Italian" in design and does follow Italian neoclassicism as might a house intended for French gala living. In its later years, prior to its demolition in 1841 during the reign of Louis Philippe, its Italian appearance seems to have inspired its reuse as the Tivoli Garden, a popular restaurant and amusement park, managed along the idea of that in Rome.

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of marble from Flanders, the Pyrenees, and Italy. The salon had eight arcades formed by green marble pilasters with breche violette bases, divided into five windows and three doors. The Corinthian capitals of the pilasters were realized in gilded lead. The floor was made in colored mosaics made of different col­ ored marbles. On one side of the rotunda, on enter­ ing from the front, was the salon d'hiver with floo!s in wooden parquetry. Its walls were lined with panel­ ing painted in gray with moldings and ornamental gilded sculpture. It opened with two windows to the garden and, on the interior wall, had two correspon46 WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number 44)

ding doors. A fireplace of matching blue-gray marble coordinated with the walls. The mirror over the fire­ place was echoed in the doors, which were glazed with mirror. Behind the salon, one would proceed through a small recess into a cabinet with a parquet floor and a white marble fireplace with friezes and pilasters in gilded bronze. On the left side of the rotunda or salon d'ete, two bedrooms were situated. The larger one had carved wood paneling, an Italian marble fireplace, and an alcove bed. Through a nar­ row passage, one reached the small bedroom with a similar fireplace and bed, but with paneling painted

Le Rouge also published cutaways of the south and east sides of the house. The elegant interior was lighted from above by glass and likely mirrored lanterns in the attic, which were in turn fed illumination by skylights. Elevated by both raised grade and a high basement, the folie's rooms and terraces provided magnificent views of city and open country.


with figures, animals, plants, and trees in blue grisaille. The Monroes moved to the pavilion soon after the acquisition in the early spring of 1795. They lived there with seven servants, including the chef, their coachman, and a gardener. Once in the pavilion the Monroes started to entertain a social circle composed of Americans, French officials, and personal friends. Thomas Paine, after his release from prison, would stay for many months. 20 During the first summer at their Paris residence the Monroes decided to enter­ tain at the pavilion on the occasion of the Fourth of

July. They invited all the Americans then in Paris to attend, including members of the government com­ mittees as well as delegates of the Convention and several foreign ministers, of which those of Sweden, Tuscany, Holland, Genoa, Geneva, and Malta attended. As the attendance of more than 150 guests made it impossible accommodate them in the house, Monroe used the rooftop tent, with its stunning view, and arranged for the loan of twelve marquee tents from the French Army. These were placed on the ter­ race, and under them the assembly dined. 21

The Folie de la Bouexiere Rediscovered 4 7




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A cutaway of the west side of La Bouexiere (left) reflects the scale and decor of the interior spaces on the main floor as well the location of utilitarian spaces on the ground floor. This was the principal or public facade, facing rue Clichy, at the foot of the hill of Montmartre, on the Right Bank of Paris. Georges­ Louis Le Rouge's 1773-77 ground floor plan (below left) documents how the space was used for food preparation and service. Nicolas-Sebastien Adam's Apollo and Daphne Metamorphosed in Laure, one of many of the bas-reliefs that decorated La Bouexiere, survives in the Musee Carnavalet in Paris. It is representative of the high quality of art and detailing that enriched the house.


Many visitors came and were enchanted by the pavilion during the Monroe occupation, marveling at the beauty of the garden and grounds. In the winter of 1796, Mary Pinckney of South Carolina wrote to Gabriel Manigault about her visit and gave a brief description of the pavilion: Their house is a little temple. It was built by a rich farmer general in a beautiful style of architecture & stands in the midst of twenty [illegible] laid out in terraces and alleys. After descending a high flight of steps of great length you enter a vestibule & then straight on a small eating room ornament­ ed with large bronze statues. On each side is a beautiful octagonal saloon, profuse with gilding, painted ceilings & compartments over the win­ dows, & the finest glasses . . . & beyond the saloon on one side is the bed chamber & beyond the other a study-in keeping forward from the entrance and beyond the small eating room is a large octagon dining room which I did not see.22 Initially, Monroe had intended to sell the house to the United States to serve as a permanent residence for the American ministers to France. Due to his later estrangement from the administration, this plan did not come to pass.23 With the end of his mission in Paris and hardly two years after the acquisition of the property, the Monroes gave mandate to Jean-Pierre Delmas, American consul in Paris, on March 5, 1797, to sell the estate for them after they had left France.24 If the fact that Monroe had purchased this important landmark in Paris did not leave a permanent trace in French art history, it was certainly remarked upon by contemporaries. Krafft and Ransonnette expressely mention the owner of La Bouexiere as being an "Englishman from the United States." 25 The American episode in the history of the pavilion ended when La Bouexiere was sold on behalf of James and Elizabeth Monroe on June 12, 1798, to Jean-Pierre Delmas and his wife, Henriette Knightley Delmas, for 75,000 francs.26 NOTES I.

The most precise account of the history of the building and the artists involved was published by Vincent Droguet, Le pavilion la Bouexiere: La nouvelle Athenes (Paris: Action artistique de la Ville de Paris, 2001), 39-49.


Archives nationales, MC/ET/XIII/487, 3 Fructidor an II (August 30, 1794). The lease had been brokered by the Swiss banker Jean-Frederic Perregaux on behalf of the Englishman Henry Seymour on July l, 1791, who himself



had rented it from the ladies of a religious order in Paris. See also Morris Archives nationales, MC/ET/X/809, 03.01.l 790. 3.

Archives nationales, MC/ET/XIII/487, 3 Fructidor an II (August 30, 1794).The house consisted of three floors and courtyard with outbuildings and a garden at the back of the house. Archives nationales, MC/ET/X/809, 03.01.1790


Archives nationales, MC/ET/LI/1224, 8 Germinal an III (March 28, 1795). See the transcription of the document.




According to Rodolphe el-Khoury, the term ''petite maison" refers to a spe­ cific building type that dates from the beginning of the Regence. These gar­ den pavilions or suburban retreats, in the Faubourg Saint-Honore and Saint-Martin, in Auteuil, Passy, NeuiUy, Clichy, and Berey, remained a sta­ ple fixture in eighteenth-century libertine fiction long after they were built and were used as secluded quarters for clandestine encounters. Jean-Fran9ois de Bastide, The Little House: An Architectural Seduction (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996).


La rue de Lille:Ht'itel de Salm (Paris, Delegation a !'action artistique de la ViUe de Paris, Musee de la Legion d'Honneur, 1983), 160.


Droguet, Le pavilion la Bouexiere, 39.


Claire Ollagnier, Petites Maisons: Asile fantasme ou type architectural? (Brussels: Mardaga, 2016), 43.

I 0. Much information about the work, bills by craftsmen, and other documents related to the building and its interior decoration are preserved in the Archives nationales. See Droguet, Le pavilion la Boui!xiere.

11. Georges-Louis Le Rouge, Detail des nouveaux jardins a la mode (Paris, 1773-77?).

12. Jean-Charles Krafft and Pierre Nicolas Ransonnette, Plans, coupes, eleva­

tions des plus belles maisons et des hotels construits a Paris et dans /es environs

(Paris, 1801-12). A recent edition is (Nordlingen: Verlag Dr. Alfons Uhl, 1992). 13. These drawings are now in the collection of the White House Historical Association, Washington, D.C. 14. Droguet, Le pavilion la Boui!xiere, 48. 15. Jean-Fran9ois Blonde!, De la distribution des maisons de plaisance (Paris, 1750); Jean-Fran9ois Blonde), Architecture Fran,aise (Paris, 1754). 16. Bastide, Little House.

17. The inventory after the death of la Bouexiere describes the lavish interior fully furnished with fine pieces of furniture. His papers at the Archives nationales provide information on the building. 18. The only surviving fragments of the elaborate decorations are some paint­ ings of the salon by Noel Halle on the theme of the times of day. These are in a private collection. See Drogue!, Le pavilion la Boui!xiere, 39-49. 19. These had been shown at the Salon of 1753; see Droguet, Le pavilion la Boui!xiere, 41. The reliefs are today at the Musee Carnavalet. Beatrice D'Andia, De Bagatelle a Monceau, 1778-1978 (Paris: Musee Carnavalet, 1978), 56. 20. Harlow Giles Unger, The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness (Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2009), 123. 21. James Monroe, The Autobiography of James Monroe, ed. Stuart Gerry Bown (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1959), 103. 22. Quoted in James E. Wootton, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, rev. ed. (Charlottesville: Ash Lawn-Highland, 2002), 13-14. 23. Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1990), 134. 24. According to Mary Pinckney, "[Monroe] is going to sell this house for what­ ever it will fetch, which probably under the present appearances of things mil not be more than he gave for it of 2000 L sterling." Quoted in Wootton, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, 14. In fact, Monroe had paid the equivalent of $15,000 for the pavilion and sold it for $20,000. The profit of$5,000 may lead one to suspect that he used his mission as an occasion to speculate in real estate. See Ammon, James Monroe, 134. 25. Krafft and Ransonette, Plans, coupes, elevations des plus belles maisons et des hotels construits a Paris et dans /es environs (1992), pl. 55. 26. Archives nationales, MC/ET/XIII/504, 24 Prairial an VI (June 12, 1798). In I 806 Dumas and his wife sold the pavilion to Greffuhle.

Forecourt of the Folie The visitor driving to the house from the public road, along a long double avenue of trees, approached the Folie de la Bouexiere suddenly, not on the usual straight axis but offset. Carriages were prevented from drawing close by terraces that stepped up gradually to the house. The house was very like an Italian villa of the time, only more elaborate than many.

Garden Front The south front, showing rows of French doors opening from the large salon to the terraces (see plan page 44). The terraces gave on to extensive, well-maintained fawns and groves. The rooftop tent was a feature of the house, a place for dinners and afternoon teas.

The Court Ensembles of James and Elizabeth Monroe American Diplomatic Dress in France LYNNE ZACEK BASSETT

Foreign court appearances by cfully laid in Americans required clothing to archival boxes and padded with which the wearers were often unac­ acid-free tissue in the collection of customed-embroidered coats and the James Monroe Museum and waistcoats and expensively adorned Memorial Library in Fredericksburg, dresses that would have been consid­ Virginia, are costume items worn by ered extravagant and possibly inappro­ James and Elizabeth Monroe while priate, even in the most elite American they lived in France and England from venues. Some American diplomats and 1803 to 1807, as well as garments worn by their families enjoyed the superlatively ele­ James even earlier in his political career. The gant fashions more than others. Abigail dress, court suit, waistcoat, and other items fea­ Adams famously resented the dictates of court dress tured in this article represent not only the wealth and national importance that the couple achieved by ��ll!lil"-ir,. but bowed to its requirements.' Elizabeth the early nineteenth century, but their European "'-.eit�..:7 Kortright Monroe, however, enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to enhance her natural experience as well. beauty with the embroidered muslins, shimmering silks, and rich velvets of the sumptuous styles. 2 At no court was fashion more significant than in Empress Josephine's 1808 portrait by Franrois Gerard France, which had led Western fashion and support­ (opposite) shows her in full imperial regalia following her ed it as a national industry since the seventeenth cen­ 1804 coronation. As Napoleon's wife and shrewd advisor, tury.3 Elizabeth Monroe's beauty, grace, and taste in the popular Josephine loved costume and was herself a fashion were immediately appreciated by the French, style setter known for her "Greco-Roman" Empire style. who quickly proclaimed her "La Belle Americaine. "4 James Monroe purchased the aquamarine necklace Similarly, at 6 feet tall (about 6 inches taller than the and removable cross-form pendant (above) for his average European man),5 James Monroe cut a dash­ wife Elizabeth during his second mission to France. ing figure in the era's neoclassical fashions, which Constructed of twenty-four oval blue topazes (or aqua­ sought to elongate the male silhouette with slim coats marines), ranging in size from 2 carats to 30 carats, it is and tall-crowned hats. evocative of the high style and status the couple had achieved by that time.

DETAIL, WAISTCOAT WOR N WITH THE COURT S UIT OF JAMES MONROE c. 1803, French Embroidered silk The elegant silk stitchery seen in the detail (opposite) of Monroe's waistcoat is representative of the work of France's professional embroidery ate­ liers-the best in Europe. Embroidery designers held a very high status in French culture. This waistcoat, and one other that belonged to James Monroe, has the interesting feature of fine netting laid over a rib­ bon of contrasting color, which was then embroi­ dered to form a border around the garment's edges and pocket flaps. In another of Monroe's waistcoats, the embroidered motifs are worked over paper tem­ plates to give them added dimension. The inked out­ lines of the embroidery motifs are visible here under some areas of the silk floss.

EMBROIDERY WORKSHOP, 1770 From L'art du brodeur by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin (1721-1786) Engraving on paper The merveilleuse fashions of France's young adults-featuring extreme exaggerations of the revo-

lutionary styles that, in part, sought to suggest the nakedness of classical statuary-were curbed by the influence of Josephine Bonaparte and the dictates of Napoleon.7 The new emperor and his wife greatly appreciated luxury, however, and understood its importance to France's international reputation and economy. Napoleon vigorously supported the reestablishment of French silk weaving, lace making, embroidery, and other luxury trades following their near decimation during the Revolution. His corona­ tion in December 1804 displayed to the world the magnificence of his power and the richness of French skill and taste. Charles Germain de Saint-Aubin was King Louis XV's official designer of embroideries and a leading embroiderer himself. He stated in his book, L'art du brodeur (1770), that French embroidery was the most desirable because of its novelty, variety, and the beauty of its execution. 8 International demand for French embroidery kept the art (and artists) alive during the Revolution. The image above depicts embroiderers working on ecclesiastical garments, but hanging on the wall is a man's coat or waistcoat, stretched and ready to be ornamented. Such uncut panels of embroidery would be purchased with the intent that a tailor would cut out the pieces and cus­ tom-fit the suit.

The Court Ensembles of James and Elizabeth Monroe 65

CONSECRATION OF THE EMPEROR NAPOLEON I AND CORONATION OF THE EMPRESS JOSEPHINE 1807, by Jacques-Louis David James Monroe, having fallen out of favor with Napoleon, had fallen also off the invitation list to the emperor's coronation.9 Monroe let it be known that he had received no invitation to Francois Barbe­ Marbois, the French dignitary with strong ties to the United States, with whom Monroe had negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. Barbe-Marbois "expressed astonishment at the neglect" and arranged for two invitations to be delivered to the Monroes. They were disappointed with their seats, however, which were "in the gallery, in a great measure out of sight, and not with those in our grade, the Foreign Ministers," as Monroe recalled in his autobiography. 10 Jacques-Louis David's Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on 2 December 1804, at a remarkable 20 by 32 feet in size, depicts Napoleon after he has taken his own crown from the captive Pope Pius VII and prepares to place another on the head of his wife, Josephine Beauharnais. Monroe's description indicates that he and Elizabeth sat in an upper gallery, separated from the other foreign ministers-perhaps in the seats depicted in the David painting, above the turbaned head of Halet Efendi, an Ottoman foreign minister. 11 Even from their distant seat, the splendor of the gold-embroidered silks and velvets, jeweled diadems, luxurious furs, and ostrich plumes must have dazzled James and Elizabeth Monroe. The costumes worn by the imperial family and their entourage were designed by the artist Jean-Baptiste Isabey, who loaded each piece with classical symbols of knowl­ edge, power, and honor. 12 Napoleon's coronation robe and the coordinating robe of Josephine were made of crimson velvet, embroidered with gold bees (Napoleon's personal emblem) and deep borders of classical motifs of laurel, oak, and olive leaves. The robes were lined with ermine. As Napoleon's favored painter, David had been present for the emperor's crowning, so was prepared when the painting was commissioned in 1806. While David requested sittings by dignitaries who were 66 WHITE HOUSE HISTORY (Number44)

present in order to make his depiction as authentic as possible, James and Elizabeth Monroe were not among those who sat for the artist. Nevertheless, a woman in the gallery above the foreign ministers who wears a taupe-colored dress bears a strong resem­ blance to the portrait of Elizabeth (page 69) that was painted by an unknown artist in this same period. 13 The depictions of the ladies watching from the

gallery in David's painting give an idea of how Elizabeth Monroe might have accessorized her dress, believed to be the beige velvet gown on page 68. A standing collar of lace around the neckline, a plumed turban, long gloves, a fine cashmere shawl, and ele­ gant gold jewelry-perhaps the citrine set seen on page 71-would have been exactly what the occasion called for. On her feet, Elizabeth may well have worn

the silk slippers, tipped with dark green Moroccan leather around the pointed toes and embroidered with tambour stitching, that appear on page 69. The garments preserved by the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, and the thoughts documented by other observers of the Monroes' style, make it clear that La Belle Americaine and her handsome husband cut fine figures, indeed. 14 The Court Ensembles of James and Elizabeth Monroe 67


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It has been speculated that the dress seen oppo­ site was worn with an embroidered net overdress, but that is unlikely. 15 A net overlay would not drape gracefully over velvet, the nap of which would cause the net lace to catch and bunch up unattractively. Also, the shirred decoration of velvet on the shoul­ ders would displace the smooth fitting of any over­ dress. Instead, the dress was probably accessorized with an elegant cashmere or silk shawl and jewelry. The citrine and gold parure seen on page 71, known to have belonged to Elizabeth at the time of the Monroes' residence in England and France, for instance, would have made a beautiful accompaniment to this dress. The panel on the back is a later alteration to enlarge the size of the dress.

SHOES c. 1800-5, Embroidered silk, linen, goat skin These shoes date to the period of the Monroes' residency in France and England in the early nine­ teenth century and may have been worn by Elizabeth at Napoleon's coronation. The high-heeled shoe of the eighteenth century had given way to the flat slipper of neoclassicism, which was often laced around the ankle in imitation of ancient styles. Heels did not reemerge in women's high-style fashion for another sixty years. (The cardstock lining in these shoes is not original.)

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ELIZABETH KORTRIGHT MONROE Early nineteenth century Artist unknown The dress worn by Elizabeth Monroe in this portrait, believed to date from the time of the Monroes' residence in England (1804-7), is con­ structed with the same shirred puffing on the shoul­ ders as the beige velvet dress. It may be the same dress with artistic license taken with the color, or perhaps Elizabeth had more than one dress made with the distinctive puffing, a construction featured in French fashion plates from about 1805 to 1808. 17 Her interest in being on the leading edge of fashion is revealed by the exotic turban and the red cashmere shawl from India, both of which were introduced to American fashion by French modistes following Napoleon's attempted conquest of Egypt. Elizabeth wears an ermine stole or tippet draped around her upper arms.

The Court Ensembles of James and Elizabeth Monroe 69

DEMI-PAR URE CONSISTING OF A NECKLACE, COMB, AND EARRINGS c. 1804, Gold and citrine A parure is a set of jewelry con­ sisting of a necklace, earrings, one or a pair of bracelets, a brooch, and generally a headpiece, such as a dia­ dem or tiara. A demi-parure includes two or three of those items, as seen in this example of citrine jewels bought by Monroe while he was serving in France. The comb is constructed of a row of seven slightly graduated, bezel and prong-held round citrines, ranging in size from approximately 5 to 8 carats, above a row of oval citrines set end to end. It has three tiers of medi­ um golden-yellow transparent stones with closed backs and a hinged curved bar clasp. The pair of drop earrings is composed of prong- and bezel-held round citrines, each weighing approxi­ mately 25 carats, with 14 carat gold screw backs. The necklace is made of twenty-nine oval citrines with two smaller stones that form the clasp. Such elegant fashion accessories fell out of favor during the French Revolution, being associated with the despised nobility and gentry. Napoleon, who very much enjoyed the emblems of wealth and power, encouraged the resurgence of the artistry necessary to supply fine jewelry. The Monroes are known to have patronized the same jewelers as Napoleon's family. 16 Citrines were a particularly fashionable stone in the neoclassical period, and this set fea­ tures the simple elegance favored for wearing with neoclassical fashions.


nh·1�s J)(' s.u·1u: J(T COl'llO��•:)IY.�"f l>I� I.Ka· Its )i.\.lHST1<:\ DIPl\,Rl. I.F.�. L






Napoleon's coronation is illustrated in this popular broadside that was drawn and published in 1804 before the event actually took place to facilitate rapid distribution following the coronation. Such period prints, once commonly available on the streets or in bookstalls, are rare today. Here we get a sense of the crowded galleries that held hun­ dreds of onlookers including James and Elizabeth Monroe. Although this broadside shows a wider view of the setting in Notre Dame Cathedral than does David's detailed masterpiece (pages 67-08), it tells us little about the identities of the partici­ pants. In contrast, David's work, which was completed eight years after the event, included carefully made portraits of individuals. According to Napoleon's valet Louis Constant, coronation day was a madhouse inside the palace. Aware of threats to assassinate Napoleon, guards lined the way to Notre Dame Cathedral. Napoleon insisted that the ceremony be in haste. Early on December 4, 1804, crowds with preferred invita­ tions arrived at Notre Dame and were kept wait­ ing for admittance as the decorators completed their work. At 7:00 a.m., several hundred musical performers collected on bleachers in the cathe­ dral's transept. The diplomatic corps arrived at 9:00 a.m., presumably joined by James and Elizabeth Monroe. At about 10:00 a.m., the imperial procession set out from the Tuileries Palace with twenty-five carriages drawn by 150 people on foot, and six regiments of cavalry, and mounted chasseurs and grenadiers. At about 10:30 a.m., Pope Pius VII and his cortege reached Notre-Dame and were met by the Archbishop of Paris, the Cardinal du Belloy. The imperial couple arrived at 11:00 a.m. The coronation ceremonies, which included the crowning, a mass, choir song, and Napoleon's pronouncement of a constitutional oath, continued until mid-afternoon. The imperial procession left Notre-Dame after 4:00 p.m., and after proceeding through the streets finally returned to the Tuileries at about 6:30 p.m.


Phyllis Lee Levin, Abigail Adams: A Biography (New York: Ballantine Books, 1987), 185, 198-99.


Harlow Giles Unger, The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness (Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2009), 104, 113.


Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the finance minister of King Louis XIV, encouraged and promoted the French fashion industry, recognizing its importance to the country's economy. See Pamela Parma! et al., Fashion Show: Paris Style (Boston: MFA Publications, 2006); Valerie Steele, Paris Fashion: A Cultural History, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Berg, 1998).


Unger, Last Founding Father, 113.


American men, on average, were taller tban European men in the eigh­ teenth and nineteenth centuries, due to healthier living conditions. It has been estimated that European men in the eighteenth century averaged about 5'6" tall, while American men averaged 5'8" tall. See "Were People Shorter in the Past? Average Height 'Back Then,"' Owlcation, online at owlcation.com.


For more about neoclassical fashions and American style, see Lynne Zacek Bassett, "A Classical Turn: Fashion in the Time of President John Adams," White House History, no. 7 (Spring 2000): 46-55.


Philippe Seguy, "Costume in the Age of Napoleon," in The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789-1815, ed. Katell le Bourhis (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1989), 71-72, 81-85.


Nikki Scheuer, "The Elegant Art of Embroidery," in An Elegant Art, ed. Edward Maeder (New York: Los Angeles County Museum of Art in asso­ ciation with Harry N. Abrams, 1983), 89.


Unger, Last Founding Father, 180.

10. James Monroe, The Autobiography of James Monroe, ed. Stuart Gerry Brown (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1959), 209. 11. "Who's Who at Napoleon's Coronation?," September 20, 2012, Nineteenth Century Art and Architecture, online at nineteenthcenturybaruch.word­ press.com. 12. Seguy, "Costume in the Age of Napoleon," 86-89. 13. Malika Bouabdellah Dorbani, "The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Josephine on December 2, 1804," Musee du Louvre, Department of Paintings, French Paintings, online at www.louvre.fr. 14. Unger, Last Founding Father, 121, writes: "John Quincy Adams's wife, Louisa, would later compare Elizabeth Monroe's dress and demeanor to those of a goddess." 15. Meghan Budinger, Our Face to the World: The Clothing of James and Elizabeth Monroe (Fredericksburg, Va.) James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, 2010), 27. 16. Ibid., 31. 17. Michele Majer, "American Women and French Fashion," in Age ·of Napoleon, ed. le Bourhis, 216.

The Court Ensembles of James and Elizabeth Monroe 75

Dolley Madison's Music Book A Lyrical French Connection


among Dolley Madison's furnishings for the White House in the National Archives is an intriguing volume of music. 1 Entitled Journal of Musick, it was published in Baltimore by "Madame Le Pelletier" in 1810 and delivered to the White House on October 19 of the same year. The volume offers clues about entertaining styles in the President's House as well as new aspects of French culture and practice. But the Journal of Musick is especially fascinating because it reveals what a deter足 mined woman could accomplish in early nineteenth足 century America. Dolley Madison's original volume of the Journal of Musick appears to be lost, but a copy (pictured opposite and above) exists in the Library of Congress. Expertly printed by George Willig in Philadelphia, it comprises thirty-one pieces, mainly for voice and piano, by English, Italian, and French composers, including an amazing set of virtuosic variations "pour le Forte Piano" by Charlotte Le Pelletier herself. Most of the pieces in the Journal are from light operas, popular in Paris at the time. They include arias and duets by Nicolas Isouard, Charles-Simon Catel, Etienne Nicolas Mehul, Henri-Montan Berton, Fran9ois-Adrien Boieldieu, and other French com足 posers, many in Le Pelletier's own arrangements. The daughter of a marquis, Charlotte Le Pelletier had

endured the terrors of two revolutions before coming to Baltimore in 1803-first in Paris and then in Saint Domingue, where her family estate was destroyed in the slave uprisings of 1800-1803. Today she is recognized as the first woman in America to compose, arrange, and publish not only her own works but those of others as well. Who would have played these pieces? Baltimore had a large French community, and in those days, women were expected to entertain their friends and families at the piano regularly. In the Journal of Musick, Dolley Madison would have had a fine com足 pendium of songs and keyboard music for her guests to play and enjoy at her famous White House parties. One tuneful possibility is the satiric little duet from Boieldieu's Ma tante Aurore (My Aunt Aurore) of 1803, in which the maid and the valet compare the value of love over wealth. Finally, Marton sings, "If you were shoved upstairs, would you leave me? Would the aunt's fortune seduce you?" Frontin answers, "You tempt me more than money. ,, NOTE 1.

Account29-494, Record Group217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts of the President's House, National Archives, Washington, D.C. For more on Dolley Madison and the Journal, see Elise K. Kirk, "Charlotte Le . Pelletier's Journal of Musick (1810): A New Look at French Culture m Early America," American Music29, no.2 (Summer2011):203-28.


Historic Residences of Washington D+C+ and Its Environs, 1735-1965

Ja1nes M. Goode, Author

Noted architectural and social historim1 and recipient of ttJis year's \½1s/Jington D.C. Historirnl Society Lifetime Acliievement Award

Bruce M. White, Photograpl?Cr

Aword-winningjinc or/ & architccturnl p/Jotogmphr for tl!e 1Vhitc House and /coding cultural institutions such os t/Jc lvfctropolitan 1vfoseum of Art and tl!c]. Awl Getty Afosrnm

Acanthus Press, an award-winning publisher offine books on architecture, design, and gardens, announces the release of Capital Houses: Historic Residences of Wc1shi11gton, D.C. ond Its En�irons, 1735-1965, the newest volume in its acclaimed Urban Domestic Architecture Series. A collaboration between Bruce White an award-winning photographer and James M. Goode an esteemed architectural and social historian, Cc1pital Houses is a magnificent study ofvVashington's historic residences that will come as a revelation even to those who think they know the city. More information: www.acanthuspress.com. Washington's history of domestic architecture offers a remarkable range of periods, styles, and types yet, unlike the city's great monuments and civic buildings, its documentation and in-depth study have been scarce. Few ofvVashington's private residences have nude it into general surveys of American architecture and many ofthe finest have been lost before getting recognized as its outstanding examples. Only a handful of publications have been dedicated exclusively to the city's domestic buildings. Cc1pitol Houses examines the history of\Vashington's domestic architecture over the period of nearly 250 years through an outstanding collection of56 historic houses: 44 in the District of Columbia and 12 in its Virginia and Maryland suburbs. In ten meticulously detailed chapters, each dedicated to a specific architectural period, Goode traces their stylistic development, from the first Georgian example -Mount Vernon (1735) in Fairfax County, Virginia-to one ofthe city's best midcenrnry Moderns, the Kreeger House (1966) on Foxhall Road in Washington. A number ofhouses, including the Georgian landmark Hayes Manor, the Sticl<ley-designed Dumblane, the Arts and Crafts-style Granger Cottage, and an Art Deco gem, the Mounsey House, are published here for the first time. A detailed introduction outlines important historical influences and trends and offers insightful political, social, and artistic commentary. The book is generously illustrated with new color images by \.Vhite, complemented by restored period photographs and custom-drawn Boor plans. Detailed maps, commissioned specially for this book, give an overview ofvVashington's all 22 historic districts and focus individually on Dupont Circle, Sheridan-Kalorama, and Georgetown where the majority of the houses in the book are located. The most comprehensive survey ofthe city's historic houses to date, this monumental work paints a picture of private life, taste, and changes in \Vashington from the first chimneys that rose in Colonial forests to the urban scene today. 'lo purclJ<JSc a l1ooh:

www.acanthuspress.co111 I

Over 300 color photographs and 65 B.oor plans


ISBN: 9780926494916

Profile for White House Historical Association

White House History 44 - France and the White House  

White House History 44 - France and the White House  

Profile for whhapubl