This double portrait of The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte by Jacques-Louis David was painted in 1821, a number of years after the final deposition of Napoleon in 1815.
The painting The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte is of the former Emperor’s two nieces, the daughters of the former King of Spain and Napoleon’s brother Joseph, whose letter the elder daughter Zénaïde holds.
In fact, Brussels is where Joseph’s daughters were banished after the fall of the regime, and also where David himself chose to live in a self-imposed exile. Life in France for David had become uncomfortable as he was for a time the official painter of the Napoleonic regime.
Here both sitters are depicted as physically and affectionately close. The younger girl, Charlotte clings to her sister as if for reassurance. The older sister, holding the letter from her father looks confidently out at the viewer as if aware of the global and historical significance of the family.
Jacques-Louis David’s The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte is in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, United States of America.