Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was one of the femme fatales of the War of 1812 generation.
As a gorgeous 18-year-old, Elizabeth set the gossipmongers atwitter with her revealing empire dresses at local society events. Her marriage to Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger brother Jerome became an international drama. Whether in Europe or in Baltimore she always caused a stir with her renowned beauty and wit. Even at ninety-four, Elizabeth was still making news as one of America’s richest women. Despite a life of celebrity and financial success, she lived with unfulfilled imperial dreams. With hundreds of objects and reams of documents, the Maryland Historical Society is launching a major new exhibition, entitled “Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and the Quest for an Imperial Legacy” that will open on June 9, 2013.
The exhibition includes silver, porcelain, paintings, textiles, jewelry, manuscripts and furniture associated with Elizabeth and her descendants illustrating her unique life shaped by American and European societies. Of particular note are Elizabeth’s pearl and garnet tiara and other jewelry, and one of her “scandalous” dresses in the French-style. In total, more than 100 objects will be on view in the exhibition, and this marks the first time the Maryland Historical Society has featured an exhibition exclusively devoted to a historical female figure.
Image: Portrait of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, George D’Almaine after Gilbert Stuart, 1856, Maryland Historical Society, Gift of Mrs. Charles Joseph Bonaparte, xx.5.78