(b. 1777, Savignano, d. 1850, Firenze)

Elisa Baciocchi, née Bonaparte

c. 1809
Marble, height 74 cm
Private collection

This marble represents Maria Anna Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi Levoy (1777-1820), Princesse Française, Princess of Lucca and Piombino, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Countess of Compignano. She was younger sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. She became Napoleon's only sister to possess political power. In 1797 she married Felice Pasquale Baciocchi (who later adopted the surname Levoy).

The princess was highly interested in the arts and commissioned a variety of marble portraits of the Bonapartes. Since Carrara was the main supplier of the finest white marble in Europe, and Elisa had both financial and artistic interests as ruler of Tuscany, she established an Académie des Beaux-Arts there to host the greatest sculptors and thus make Carrara an exporter of marble statues. She also recommended that Napoleon send his favourite sculptor, Lorenzo Bartolini, to direct the Académie. In 1809, she commissioned Bartolini to create busts of her immediate family. After seeing his first portrait, Elisa ordered twelve lifesize busts of her own image, all of which were made by the sculptor or his workshop under his direct supervision. With her headdress emblazoned with imperial symbols of bees, stars and palms, this bust, of which the present portrait is a version, became the official image of the new Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.