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