Charlotte Julie Bonaparte was a daughter of Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844) and Marie-Julie Clary (1771-1845); her father, a brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, was King of Spain and Naples from 1806 to 1808. Charlotte studied engraving and lithography in Paris with the artist Leopold Robert, who is reputed to have fallen in love with her.(1)
After Bonaparte’s father was deposed in 1808 he moved to America and purchased "Point Breeze," an estate on the Delaware River near Bordentown, New Jersey. Bonaparte’s palatial house was filled with paintings and sculpture by such luminaries as David, Canova, Rubens, and Titian, and the surrounding park of 1,800 acres included landscaped gardens. Joseph Bonaparte played host to many of the national’s wealthiest and most cultivated citizens, and his art collection played a crucial role in transmitting high European taste to America.(2)
Charlotte, known as the Countess de Survilliers, lived with her father in New Jersey for a number of years. While there she sketched numerous landscapes including Passaic Falls, her father's "Point Breeze" estate, the town of Lebanon, NJ, and others, some of which were engraved for the book Picturesque American Scenes by Joubert. Existing landscape drawings by Bonaparte include Passaic Falls, a view near Tuckerton, NJ, and Schooley’s Mountain. She also painted at least one portrait (Cora Monges, 1822) and exhibited her work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.(3)
Charlotte, her sister Zénaide (1801-1854), and their mother were painted by the French artist Francois-Pascal-Simon Gerard while their mother was Queen of Spain. Another French artist, the well-known Jacques-Louis David, painted a portrait of the two little girls; it shows them reading a letter from Philadelphia sent by their father.
In 1826 Charlotte married her cousin Napoleon Louis Bonaparte, son of Louis Bonaparte (another brother of Napoleon). Her sister Zénaide also married a cousin – Charles Lucien, son of Lucien Bonaparte (the youngest brother of Napoleon).(4)
(1) E. Benezit, Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs (1966), vol.1 p.754, and vol.7 p.279
(2) Patricia Tyson Stroud, The Man Who Had Been King: The American Exile of Napoleon’s Brother Joseph (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005).
(3) William H. Gerdts, Painting and Sculpture in New Jersey (Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, 1964), p.56.
Information researched and compiled by Kate Nearpass Ogden, Associate Professor of Art History, Stockton College