Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Marie-Amélie, Queen of the French

Baron François Joseph Bosio (French, 1768–1845)
French, Paris
Overall (confirmed): H. 32 5/8 x W. 22 7/8 x D. 12 5/8 in. (82.9 x 58.1 x 32.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Wrightsman Fund, 1990
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 554
The prominent signature on the socle of this bust announces the sculptor’s baronetcy, which he received in 1828. Born in Monaco, Bosio had trained in Paris with Augustin Pajou, studied in Italy after a stint there in the French army during the Revolutionary wars, and established himself in France by 1807. Soon he began portraying the imperial family in full-length statues and busts —  of Napoléon and Joséphine, as well as of the emperor’s second wife, Empress Marie-Louise, and his stepdaughter, Queen Hortense of Holland. The Museum owns a fine replica dating to 1810–12 of Bosio’s bust of Napoléon’s brother Jérôme Bonaparte, king of Westphalia, which displays the clarity of the sculptor’s Neoclassicist style and the mannered carving of details that combined to make him so fashionable a portraitist.[1] Under the Bourbon restoration, he continued to sculpt portraits of rulers, as a marble bust of Louis XVIII (1814, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles) testifies, and found success with historical subjects, such as Henry of Navarre as a Boy (plaster 1822, silver 1824; Musée du Louvre, Paris) and the bronze equestrian monument to Louis XIV in the Place des Victoires (1816 – 22).

King Louis-Philippe’s obsession with royal iconography ensured that there would be abundant images of himself and his wife, Queen Marie-Amélie, for posterity.[2] Their "bourgeois monarchy" (1830 – 48) is evoked to perfection in an earlier bust of the queen by Antonin Moine, first exhibited at the Salon of 1833. Crowned with an enormous ostrich-plumed hat, she is engulfed in a torrent of clothing including blouse, scarf, beads, epaulettes, and ribbons. Moine’s is an image of modernity taken almost to the point of parody through scrupulously realistic attention to detail. Six years later, when Bosio took up his chisel to execute this bust, her beaklike nose, elaborate curls, and fastidious dress remained the queen’s identifiable features. Seen in her late fifties, she carries herself with the haughty dignity of her rank, having been a princess of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. A stylish silk turban worn at a rakish angle sets off her austere face. As exotic accessories to evening wear, turbans crested in popularity in England and France in the 1830s.[ 3] The delicate floral band on the turban is repeated on an edge of her dress, just visible beneath a sumptuous ermine stole. The tails dangling from this wrap rhyme peculiarly with the corkscrew curls surrounding her face. What saves Bosio’s efforts from the nearly comic effect of Moine’s overly lavish decorative detail is the almost abstract structure of the queen’s body. With geometric precision, the angled slopes of her shoulders support the long cylinder of the neck. This purity of line —  the essence of Neoclassicism —  ​compellingly balances the rich textures of the dress. Against this basic design and the formidable strength of character projected by her eyes and mouth, the potentially distracting curled locks —  truly bravura carving —  do not overwhelm the image. This stylish period coiffure dominates the sculpted female portraits by Pierre-Jean David d’Angers, but here Bosio has tamed it with strong design elements.[4] The queen’s elongated neck may reflect the study of Italian Mannerists, such as Parmigianino and Bronzino, who were much admired by Bosio, and of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the contemporary painter whose elegance most closely corresponds to his own. Here, late in his career, Bosio blended his early interest in Neoclassical line with a realistic approach that captured perfectly the aloof mien and love of finery of the wife of the "bourgeois monarch."

This bust was commissioned in 1837. Bosio was paid for the first version in 1838, and it was exhibited at the Salon of 1839; [5] it appears to be the work now in Versailles.[6] A contemporary critic observed: "[Bosio] recently executed a bust of the Queen, one of his most carefully meditated works and among the most notable of his oeuvre. This bust of the Queen Amélie is of a character as pure as it is noble. The resemblance, its grace, its dignity are perfect. It is a masterpiece."  [7] The king and queen evidently shared this high opinion, as they ordered three replicas from Bosio. One was finished by August 26, 1841, and given before the end of the year by Louis-Philippe to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, by then King Ferdinand II of Portugal.[8] The date on the socle of the Museum’s example is the same as that of this commission. It was a gift to a prince into whose family two of the ten children of Louis-Philippe and Marie-Amélie were married. The replication of busts of royalty was normal practice in the period, but this example was evidently of sufficient quality and personal allure to represent the queen in a foreign court where her family presided. Of the other two replicas, now lost, one was finished by 1838 and sent to Vienna; the other, completed by 1844, was deposited in the headquarters of the National Guard in Paris. The acclaimed likeness brought Bosio the commission for a full-length statue of the queen in state dress; the ermine wrap is formally draped across her shoulders and the turban has been replaced by a crown and veil.[9] This impressive work, seen here in the plaster model, appropriately conveys the queen’s regal bearing.

[Ian Wardropper. European Sculpture, 1400–1900, In the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, no. 79, pp. 229–231.]


[1] Acc. no. 1971.113.

[2] Michael Marrinan. Painting Politics for Louis-Philippe: Art and Ideology in Orléanist France, 1830–1848. New Haven, 1988.

[3] C. Willet Cunnington and Phillis Cunnington. Handbook of English Costume in the Nineteenth Century. 2nd ed. London, 1966, pp. 413 – 14.

[4] See, for example, David d’Angers’s Emilie Jubin (1829, marble, Art Institute of Chicago) in Ian Wardropper. "Collecting European Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago." Apollo 154 (September 2001), pp. 3–12, p. 10, fig. 12.

[5] Stanislas Lami. Dictionnaire des sculpteurs de l’école française au dix-neuvième siècle. 2 vols. Paris, 1914–21, vol. 1, p. 159.

[6] It entered the Musée du Louvre on December 24, 1839, as inv. no. LP1971; now Versailles, inv. no. MV5472.

[7] "Il a exécuté récemment un buste de la Reine, l’une des productions les plus sérieusement méditées, les plus notables de son oeuvre. Ce buste de la reine Amélie est d’un caractère aussi pur que noble. La ressemblance, la grâce, la dignité, sont parfaites. C’est un chef d’oeuvre"; Frédéric Fayot. "M. Bosio." L’Artiste, 3rd ser., vol. 2 (1842), pp. 113–16, p. 115. See also Lucien Barbarin. Étude sur Bosio: Sa Vie et son oeuvre. N.p., 1910, p. 109.

[8] Gérard Hubert. Les Sculptuers italiens en France sous la Révolution, l’Empire et la Restauration, 1790–1830. Paris, 1964, p. 114, n. 1, documents all of Bosio’s busts of the queen

[9] A plaster version is in the Musée du Louvre (inv. no. LP2375), a marble one at Versailles. Philippe Durey. "Portraits de femme." In La Sculpture française au XIXème siècle, pp. 262–67. Exh. cat. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; 1986. Paris, 1986, p. 263, no. 157, ill. p. 262.
Signature: Signed and dated (incised on socle, below subject’s left shoulder): LE BARON BOSIO/ MDCCCXLI
Comissioned on May 29, 1840 by Louis Philippe, King of France ; who presented it in 1841 to Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1841–d. 1885) ; the descendants of Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (until 1990; sold to Roth) ; [ Anthony Roth , until 1990; sold to MMA ]
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