This absolutely stunning and scarce engraving was printed in England during the early 19th century, in the year 1821. This really is a rare and impressive engraving, just the sort of conversation piece that we like displayed on our wall.
The aquatint engraving is titled ‘Bonaparte's Mal-Maison at St. Helena.’ The fine engraving depicts the temporary home of French Emperor Napoleon on the remote island of St Helena. The print's title sarcastically refers to 'Chateau Malmaison' which was of course the former marital home of Josephine and Napoleon just a few miles outside of Paris. The Bonaparte's spent a fortune renovating the dilapidated mansion house, even after their divorce Josephine lived there until her death in 1814. It was Napoleon's last residence in France before his exile to St Helena in October 1815. Following the famous defeat at the Battle of Waterloo earlier in 1815 Napoleon was not exiled to America as he had hoped, but instead was exiled to St Helena. St Helena was thousands of miles off the nearest coast of Africa in the South Atlantic, the island was under British control.
Napoleon's exile to the island was a hasty one, the islanders were not best prepared for such an infamous resident! He was at first accommodated for a couple of months from October to December 1815 by the entrepreneurial William Balcombe, supply officer in the Royal Navy, Shipping broker, auctioneer and financial officer for The East India Company. The Balcombes' owned the paradise like home 'Briars House' at the base of a lush valley with wild Briar roses growing freely. They housed Napoleon in a nearby cottage on their land called Briars Pavillion. The Balcombes' had this 'folly' style cottage built close by to their house to accommodate naval officers who were staying over, with the simple addition of a side tent over the terrace, a ballroom could be created! This is the house depicted in the engraving, absolutely charming in its quaintness but a far cry from the luxury accommodation that The Emperor had previously been used to. Despite being an enemy of Britain, Napoleon was treated relatively generously by the British; in fact the British even went to the effort of making major improvements to his next home on the island called Longwood House. However, Napoleon and island’s governor, Sir Hudson Lowe, did not get on well and Napoleon led a restricted life on the island as he was effectively under house arrest. Napoleon died on the 5th of May 1821 on the island of St. Helena. There is still some controversy around the cause of his death.
This original 1821 print is housed behind old glass in a period correct frame. This is a rare engraving with a fascinating subject. This is a true country house artwork; it also will appeal to anyone with a passion for the history of France or the British Overseas Territories. If you have an interest in Napoleon or France please follow our store, we have several other pieces related to him.
The print was published July 12th by G. Humphrey, 27 St. James’s Street and engraved by John Hassell. George Humphrey was the nephew and successor of Hannah Humphrey, a leading female print seller in London.John Hassell (c. 1767 – 1825) was an English watercolour landscape painter, engraver, illustrator, writer, publisher and drawing-master. He wrote a biography of fellow artist George Morland. Reference: Museum number 1917,1208.4284 in the British Museum Online collection.
Measuring: Frame width 16.25 inch (41.5 cm) by height 13 inch (33 cm). Aperture width 12 5/8 inch (32 cm) by height 9.25 inch (23.5 cm).
Condition: The engraving historically trimmed to fit the frame. A few minor holes to the bottom of the paper from old insects. Minor surface grazes to bottom corners of frame. Some minor grazes to the veneer edges of the frame. All commensurate with age.
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Rare 19th Century Engraving, Napoleon St Helena Exile, Briars Pavillion, French Napoleonic History, British Overseas Territory 1821
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