French, Mrs. Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, (1839-1911), 1892. New-York Historical Society, Gift of the Estate of Peter Marié. 1905.25
Next week, Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America opens at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition examines the popular resurgence of portraiture in the United States during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, when many families—enjoying newfound wealth brought on by industrial expansion—sought to document those their new wealth benefited.
One such woman was Caroline LeRoy Appleton Edgar, who was Mrs. Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte when this miniature was commissioned by Peter Marié, a New York socialite who commissioned portrait miniatures of women whom he believed epitomized female beauty.
Appleton was the granddaughter of Senator Daniel Webster, and on September 10, 1871 married Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, grand-nephew of Emperor Napoleon, and according to the New York Times it was one of the events of the season. She was described as “a lovely type of the American woman, a pretty, pleasing brunette, with a refined face and dignified carriage,” and wore an “ashes-of-roses traveling dress.”
Notably, the Times writes that this was the first instance of a Protestant being married in a Catholic church, and “even King Charles was not allowed that privilege when he took a bride of another faith.” A special dispensation had to be obtained for the occasion. Though that may have been rare, today interfaith marriage accounts for 45% of all marriages in America. Want to learn more? On October 15 the New-York Historical Society will present “‘Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America,” a public program on the impact interfaith marriage has on America.