The Bowes Museum > Collections > Explore The Collection > Galleries > John and Joséphine Galleries > Life in France

Life in France

This gallery moves to France and John and Joséphine’s homes in Paris and Louveciennes, and features furniture and ornaments from their libraries, salons and dining rooms.

Joséphine’s marriage to John Bowes gave her the opportunity to indulge her love of fine clothes and jewellery and she quickly became a fashionable Parisian who spent lavishly on her clothes. Joséphine went to the leading fashion designer of the day, Charles Frederick Worth, who also supplied dresses to the Empress Eugénie, consort of Napoleon III. Empress Eugénine's clothes and shoes feature in the Fashion & Textile Gallery.

Overmantel mirror with portrait of Joséphine Bowes, unsigned, possibly by Louis William Desanges (1822 to after 1887), French

This portrait of Joséphine, above the fireplace in this room, shows her wearing a similar dress and hairstyle to that seen in the portrait of Empress Eugénie, which also hangs in this room. Joséphine is wearing a pink evening dress and is seated to read a book which is held on her lap. Her dress is decorated with pearls and she wears a diamond necklace and an elaborate belt, which is also displayed in this room.

Belt. Hungary, c 1855

Decorated in gilt bronze, silver, enamel, turquoise, garnets and pearls, ornamented with foliage and scroll work, this is the belt depicted in the portrait (above the fireplace) of Joséphine Bowes by L. W. Desanges, c.1855.

The Château du Barry at Louveciennes, between tall trees, a path beside which a lady sits, a lake and a chateau, Louveciennes, Joséphine Bowes, oil on canvas, French School

Joséphine was a keen and talented amateur painter and some of her works can been seen in both this room and Room 16. This painting shows the Bowes home at Château du Barry in Louveciennes.

During the early 19th century, women were barred from any formal artistic training; however some received training from sympathetic male artists, Joséphine herself studied under renowned landscape painter Karl Kuwasseg. Her main interest was landscape painting. Analysis of her work shows that, from the mid-1860s, she was greatly influenced by the French Realist painter Gustave Courbet.

In the late 1860s, Joséphine had four large canvasses accepted by the Salon in Paris. However in the 1870s, ill-health affected her work and she turned from observed landscapes to those with spiritual undertones.

Regretfully, Joséphine died in 1874, the year of the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris.