Today is the anniversary of Napoleon’s marriage to Josephine de Beauharnais in 1796. Just over a year later, following Napoleon’s conquest of Venice, they toured the city together. Josephine prepared for the occasion in style, spending the equivalent of three months’ military campaign wages on clothes, jewellery and ladies-in-waiting. I like to imagine that the painting above shows Napoleon going through the bills. The following is an excerpt from my book The Venice Lido.
When Napoleon had subdued and ordered Venice to his satisfaction, Josephine paid a visit. For the first time in its history the Lido was the scene of a celebrations arranged under foreign rule. “Madame Bonaparte,” relates Marshal Auguste de Marmont, “was four days in Venice. I accompanied her hither. Three days were devoted to the most splendid feasts. On the first day there was a regatta, a species of amusement which seems reserved only to Venice, the queen of the sea. The second day we had a sea-excursion; a banquet had been prepared on the Lido: the population followed in barges adorned with wreaths and flowers, and to the sound of music re-echoing far and near.”