Having escaped to the United States after Waterloo, Joseph Bonaparte selected Philadelphia as the most congenial and convenient location for his exile. Styling himself Comte de Survilliers, Bonaparte lived in rented Philadelphia houses while assembling an estate of more than 1000 acres near Bordentown, New Jersey, where he lived more or less continuously from 1817 to 1832. The grounds of "Point Breeze" were elaborately landscaped, with ten miles of carriage drives, vistas, rare trees, gazebos, tree houses, gardens, fountains and an artificial lake half a mile long. The first house at "Point Breeze" burned which provided Bonaparte with an opportunity to build an imposing classical mansion which was demolished by a later owner of the property. The site of the original house is now owned by a religious order.

Portrait of Joseph Bonaparte

Adolphe Mailliard (attributed)
Graphite on wove paper, c.1840
Gift of Emily G. Hopkinson, 1973

This sympathetic portrait of the Comte de Survilliers ("Survilliers" being the name of a village on his estate in France) is attributed to Adolphe Mailliard (b. 1819 in Bordentown, NJ), son of Bonaparte's personal secretary, Louis Mailliard. It is believed that Adolphe executed the portrait on one of the many trips which Bonaparte and the Mailliards made to Europe. He sent it as a gift to Mrs. Langhorn Thorne, the concierge at "Point Breeze." Adolphe settled in San Rafael, California, in 1867 where his descendants have prospered.

Point Breeze

Charles B. Lawrence (attributed)
Oil on canvas, c.1816
New Jersey Historical Society,
Gift of Mrs. J. W. Mailliard, 1957

Charles B. Lawrence (fl. 1813-37), a portrait and landscape painter, was born near Bordentown, NJ. His early career was supported by Joseph Bonaparte, Nicholas Biddle, Emily Hopkinson, and members of the European diplomatic service who were resident in Philadelphia. (His portrait of Evgeniia Osipovna Dashkov hangs in the DuBarry Conference Room.) Lawrence also exhibited a copy of "Napoleon Crossing the Alps" at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art; the original work by David hung at "Point Breeze." Reproduced courtesy of the New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, New Jersey.

 

Manor House of Joseph Bonaparte near Bordentown

Karl Bodmer
Oil on Canvas, 1832
Joslyn Art Museum, Gift of the Enron Art Foundation

This view of "Point Breeze" shows the second house erected by Joseph Bonaparte after the fire of 1820. The artist Bodmer (1809-1893) accompanied Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Neuwied, on a tour of the United States in 1832-34 during which he executed this and another view of "Point Breeze." Reproduced courtesy of the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska.

Landscape

Charlotte Bonaparte
Graphite on wove paper, 1823
Gift of Mrs. E. Alban Watson, 1979

The back of this oval sketch by the younger daughter of Joseph Bonaparte is inscribed "20 Juillet 1833/un Souvenir/de Joseph Bonaparte/a son ami Short/Peintre par/Charlotte fi." The American diplomat William Short (1759-1849) served several years in Paris where with his "sensitive, appealing personality...and perfect command of the French language, he achieved an enviable position in the highest circles of French society." He retired to Philadelphia in 1810 where he helped to found the Athenĉum. This charming landscape descended in the Short family until presented to the Athenĉum in 1979.

Portrait of Emilie Lacoste

Charlotte Bonaparte
Watercolor on wove paper, 1823
Gift of Emily G. Hopkinson, 1973

Emilie Lacoste was the beautiful Creole wife of Felix Lacoste, publisher of Joseph Bonaparte's New York City newspaper, Le Courrier des Etats-Unis. She was brought to "Point Breeze" as a companion for Charlotte Bonaparte during her three years in America. After Charlotte returned to Europe, Emilie remained at "Point Breeze" to comfort the lonely ex-king as his mistress. (She later returned to Paris where she engaged in a tempestuous love affair with the poet Prosper Merimee which ended in a duel between the poet and her husband.)

 

St. Catharine of Alexandria

Oil on wood panel
Gift of Miss Constance A. Jones, 1981

According to Hopkinson family tradition, this unsigned, late Renaissance painting of St. Catharine of Alexandria was given to Mrs. Joseph Hopkinson by Joseph Bonaparte prior to his departure from "Point Breeze." It descended to Miss Emily G. Hopkinson from whom the donor acquired it for presentation to the Athenĉum. During the early 19th century such "primitive" works were popular with collectors such as Joseph Bonaparte's uncle, Cardinal Fesch, from whom Joseph acquired several of his paintings.

 

Secretaire a abattant

Attributed to Michel Bouvier
Philadelphia, c. 1820
Mahogany, cherry, pine, maple; ormolu mounts
Gift of Gertruda Vroom Brooks Lushington, 1961

This fall front secretary desk has long been attributed to the French-born and trained cabinetmaker Michel Bouvier (1792-1874) who emigrated to Philadelphia after the collapse of the Empire in 1815. By 1819 he had established himself as a cabinetmaker, and in 1825 he was operating a "cabinet & sofa warehouse" on South Second Street, where he remained for more than thirty years.

According to family tradition, Bouvier supplied this desk for Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844) while superintending the building and furnishing of Bonaparte's home, "Point Breeze" near Bordentown, NJ, on the Delaware River. It is believed that the desk later passed to Garret Dorset Wall (1783-1850), a New Jersey lawyer who handled Bonaparte's legal affairs. The desk descended to Wall's daughter, Maria Matilda (b.1815), the wife of New Jersey Governor Peter Dumont Vroom (1791-1874), and it remained in the Vroom family until presented to the Athenĉum in 1961.

Guests at "Point Breeze" most often commented on the art collection. There were many statues by Canova and his contemporaries and more than 150 paintings which formed the most valuable and impressive art collection in America. The bulk of the collection consisted of minor Dutch works taken from Holland by the Spaniards and taken from Spain by Joseph. But there were also Murillos, a Titian, a Van Dyck, a Velasques, a Raphael, and several family portraits by David. Foreign visitors and American guests alike were impressed by what they saw, although one American found the art too explicit for her taste. "The walls were covered with oil paintings, principally of young females with less clothing about them than they or you would have found comfortable in our cold climate...." As for the half-size copy of Antonio Canova's nude statue of his sister Pauline Bonaparte Borghese [c. 1807, now in the main hall of the Athenĉum], "...the Count called our attention and asked us to admire it...enumerating all her charms one after another and demanding our opinion of them..., it was impossible to get him away without our prudery exciting more attention than would have been pleasant."

Textiles

Silk, early 19th century
Gift of the Bordentown Library Association, 1979

Relics of "Point Breeze" are numerous in the Philadelphia-Bordentown region. These scraps of fabric--said to be a "Piece of Madame [sic.] Joseph Bonaparte's curtains," were preserved by the Bordentown Library as souvenirs taken when the furnishings of "Point Breeze" were sold at public auction in 1847.

Porcelain Dinner Service

France, c. 1800-1811
Gift of Mrs. C. Buck Churchman, 1983

Several pieces of this white porcelain dinner service with overglaze of polychrome decoration have survived with a tradition that they were acquired at the "Point Breeze" sale. They are of the correct period and of a handsome and serviceable type that might have been regularly used in such a house.

Copyright 2008 The Athenaeum of Philadelphia