The ATG story on pendant portraits of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte by Italian neoclassical painter Andrea Appiani reunited after more than a century apart, on show at dealership Robilant+Voena’s 'Envisioning an Empire: Napoleon and Josephine reunite' exhibition in London running until June 27.

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The two pendant 18th century oil paintings of General Buonaparte and Madam Buonaparte, as they would have been known at the time, were completed when their recent marriage was in a very precarious position. Napoleon had to leave soon after the wedding to take command of the army of Italy. He wrote Josephine letters, sometimes pleading, sometimes scolding, exhorting her to join him in Italy.

However, she was fully occupied with a young officer called Hippolyte Charles and had no desire to make the arduous journey to Italy. Eventually she could not ignore his entreaties any longer and she set out for Milan with Charles for company,

It was from this inauspicious start that one of the most enduring love stories in history began. They witnessed together great splendour and great depravity. honour and betrayal, truth and lies, marriage and divorce – yet all through this they never stopped loving each other.

There is a golden thread that runs through the French first empire and that is the abiding love and affection that the two people at its head felt for each other, and why the names Napoleon and Josephine will never be separated.

Graham Bowers

Newport, Isle of Wight