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John and Joséphine Galleries

These galleries concentrate on the life of John and Joséphine Bowes in Paris, and provide a setting for their furniture that they had sent over from their houses in Paris, presumably with the intention of Joséphine using it after John’s death, in the event, she pre-deceased him. From the 1830s onwards he had spent increasing periods of time in Paris and actually bought a theatre there, the Théâtre des Variétés on the Bouvelard Montmartre, which still survives to this day.  It was there that he met the actress Joséphine Coffin-Chevallier (stage name Delorme) who became his mistress.  She liked to be seen as a patron of the arts and indeed was a talented painter in her own right. Bowes installed Joséphine in a house in a smart part of Paris, the Cité d’Antin, which still survives, though overshadowed by the Paris Opera. The bills for the furnishing of the apartment survive, along with some of the furniture, and record rich use of gilding, a testament to their lavish and fashionable lifestyle.

On their marriage in 1852 he bought her as a country house, the Château du Barry at Louveciennes outside Paris, the former home of Louis XV’s mistress Madame Du Barry. They furnished it in an exuberant 18th century revival taste, very popular in the mid 19th century. Many of the furnishings, along with the bills from the fashionable firm of Monbro fils aîné, survive today in The Bowes Museum. When they finally sold the Château in 1862, they had it photographed by the photographer Rion, who produced a series of beautiful views of the house and gardens. 

By this time, they had moved their Paris house to the newly fashionable district of the rue de Berlin near the Pont de l’Europe, which was also furnished in the same style by Monbro fils aîné. The household bills reveal they had a ‘blue’ drawing room, like the Empress Eugénie, and the furnishings survive in the Museum to this day. The house also survives, but with the interiors altered, in what is today the rue de Liège.


The Early Years

Life in France

Joséphine's Art & Bedroom Furniture

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.