Graphite on card; 8 ½ by 6 ½ in; 21.5 x 16.5 cm; signed and dated 1839; held in a period wood frame
Provenance: Private Collection, England
The sitter is Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles, Duke of Reichstadt (1811-32), who was the son of the Emperor Napoleon I and Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria. The Bonapartists referred to him as Napoleon II. He was born at the Tuileries palace in Paris on 20 March 1811. By his birth the Napoleonic dynasty seemed finally to be established, but in three years it had crumbled. Napoleon was forced to abdicate in favour of his son in 1814, but events prevented the reign of Napoleon II from being more than titular. While Napoleon was in exile on Elba, his consort and child went to Vienna. The child became a pawn in the complex game of European politics, which ended with his being given the title of ‘Duke of Reichstadt’ in July 1818. Thus, Napoleon I lived to see his son reduced to a rank inferior to that of the Austrian archdukes; he had once said that he would prefer his son to be strangled rather than brought up as an Austrian prince. He was to actually die of tuberculosis at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna on 22 July 1832.
This drawing is a period copy of the famous portrait by Moritz Daffinger (1790-1849), probably taken from the engraved version and completed just seven years after the death of the Duke.