French, Court train, first quarter of 19th century, Silk velvet embroidered with silver lamella, lined with silk satin; Length: 335.3 cm (132 inches), Gift of Mrs. Harold Brown 37.215
Costume played a major role in establishing the atmosphere of Napoléon Bonaparte’s court. The train had become an essential element of regal dress during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and Napoléon encouraged the practice of wearing this royal symbol as an important part of his court’s etiquette. RISD’s train was created for Mme Henri Gratien Bertrand, whose husband, a general in Napoléon’s army, was an intimate of the emperor who had fought under him on the Egyptian campaign (1798—1799). It is likely that Mme Bertrand wore this court train in 1810 for the emperor’s marriage to Marie Louise of Austria. The Egyptian palmettes along the train’s border intentionally reference the campaign during which Napoléon’s friendship with General Bertrand began.