Joachim and Caroline Murat, King and Queen of Naples

Joachim and Caroline Murat, King and Queen of Naples

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  • Caroline Murat and her children.

    GERARD, Baron François (1770 - 1837)

  • Joachim Murat, King of Naples.

    GROS Antoine-Jean (1771 - 1835)

Caroline Murat and her children.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

To close

Title: Joachim Murat, King of Naples.

Author : GROS Antoine-Jean (1771 - 1835)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 343 - Width 280

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas, presented at the Salon of 1812.

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzisite web

Picture reference: 96-017540 / RF1973-29

Joachim Murat, King of Naples.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: January 2009

Doctorate in Art History

Historical context

Napoleon's younger sister, Marie-Annonciade Bonaparte (1782-1839), known as Caroline, married on January 20, 1800 Joachim Murat (1767-1815), her brother's former first aide-de-camp during the first Italian campaign, who became division general.

It was primarily thanks to his dedication and bravery that Murat enjoyed an exceptional military and political rise. All that is missing for the couple is a principality to rule over.

Napoleon, who was working to reconstitute a great Western empire, provided it to them in 1806: he gave Murat the Grand Duchy of Berg and Clèves which he had just created at the end of the Austrian campaign to monitor the Hanover and Prussia. But he needs the army commander even more than the Grand Duke; Murat must therefore leave his land to go into the countryside: he is in Jena, Eylau, Madrid. After dreaming of the throne of Poland, Westphalia and then Spain, he received the kingdom of Naples in July 1808, with the title, imposed by the Emperor, of Joachim-Napoleon I.

Image Analysis

Even before joining her kingdom, Caroline plans to have her official portrait painted by François Gérard, the regime's first portrait painter and the most coveted of all. It is therefore in anticipation that he represents the queen and her children in a room of the royal palace of Naples opening onto the gulf, Vesuvius constituting the indispensable landscaped ornament of the new local dynasty. Achille (1801-1847), royal prince of Naples and second prince Murat represented in grenadier attire, is standing to the right of Caroline, who is holding his hand. Lucien (1803-1878), third prince Murat, is seated at the feet of the queen. Behind him is Laetitia (1802-1859), future Marquise Pepoli, and opposite, in front of the window, Louise (1805-1889), future Countess Rasponi.

The queen focuses the pageantry on her. From this dynastic portrait, devoid of the symbols of power as of any furniture ornament, an idea of ​​domestic happiness emerges. The first copy of the painting was finally given to Napoleon in 1808 to be placed in the family room of the Saint-Cloud palace. Gérard will deliver a second copy to the queen in 1810.

Renowned for his military background, for an energetic style described as "male" and for his superiority in painting battle scenes, Antoine-Jean Gros was the perfect painter for a warlord. To represent Joachim-Napoleon I, however, he strictly followed the tradition of the princely equestrian portrait of which Van Dyck set the model: serene on a fiery horse, the monarch supervises military operations in the Gulf of Naples. The debauchery of ornaments which he adorned himself reminds not only of his taste for the uniform, but also of the excess of fantasy he affected in this matter from his accession to the throne.


From their marriage, the Emperor endowed his brother-in-law and sister with a fortune commensurate with their rank. They very early adopted a princely standard of living and sharpened their sense of representation. Their properties increased at the rate of their social, political and dynastic rise: when they received the kingdom of Naples in 1808, they owned in France the castles of Villiers-la-Garenne and Neuilly, the hotels of Thélusson and the 'Élysée, adorned with remarkable art collections. The crown falls to them at the cost of all these goods, grabbed by the Emperor in accordance with a clause he has imposed on them, but it offers them the possibility of fulfilling their political ambition.

The portraits that Caroline and Joachim commission from Gérard and Gros are part of a strategy of legitimizing power, just like the ambitious patronage policy they are developing. The pomp and pageantry they display do not, however, mask their difficulty in reigning in a great empire muzzled by Napoleon I. The marital balance is also severely tested by the exercise of power, because Caroline, strong in the precedence given to her by birth, wants to govern in the same way as Joachim. In a way, the separate portraits of the king and the queen show this tension: in that of Joachim, the ostentatious mixture of the badges of merit and honor and the accessories of his invention (feathers, cords), literally insignificant, betrays the compensatory function of a decorum dedicated to representing a power that the monarch, caught between a demanding Emperor and an ambitious wife, struggles to embody. However, the royal couple, above all concerned about the security of their subjects and the integrity of their kingdom, found themselves in a common rejection of the imperial cause, to the point of siding with Austria against France in January 1814. The alliance was doomed to failure; after an unsuccessful turnaround in favor of the Emperor on his return in March 1815, Joachim Murat, after the final fall of the Empire, was brought before a military commission and executed on October 13, 1815.

  • imperial dynasty
  • Italy
  • official portrait
  • Murat (Joachim)


Gilbert MARTINEAU, Napoleon and his family, volume VI “Caroline Bonaparte, princess Murat, queen of Naples”, Paris, Éditions France-Empire, 1991. Jean-Pierre SAMOYAULT and Colombe SAMOYAULT-VERLET, Château de Fontainebleau. Museum Napoleon I. Napoleon and the imperial family 1804-1815, Paris, R.M.N., 1986.

To cite this article

Mehdi KORCHANE, "Joachim and Caroline Murat, King and Queen of Naples"

Video: Joachim Murat


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