Reception of Siamese Ambassadors at Fontainbleau

This was probably one of my most exciting discoveries lately. Etienne de Pierres and Jane Mary Thorn de Pierres are both in this painting by Jean Leon Gerome, which apparently took three years to complete.

In an account of Napoleon 111 and Empress Eugenie meeting the Siamese ambassador at court at the Chateau de Fontainbleu, Jane is identified as the furthest to the left of the ladies in waiting and not really distinct. Etienne, however is towards the front of the middle bay, with the long beard. I saw the orginal of this about six years ago in the Musee D’Orsay at an exhibition of the Third Empire. At the time, I remember wondering if they were represented in the painting, but my research was not sufficiently advanced to realise that they were.

This event took place in 1861, which was after Colonel Thorn had died in New York, but when the painting was finally unveiled, it was not well received. How astonishing, and so disappointing for the artist. I wonder how he felt?

The Third Empire exhibition I attended in Paris in 2016 was absolutely staggering and I would have liked to have had more time to take it in. The art was so rich and textured, and paintings like this made it feel alive. My heart goes out to Gerome.


  1. Thanks for these last informations, such a fun to follow up even thought I am concerned about Alice. Best always

    Envoyé de mon iPhone



    • Don’t worry there will be more about Alice. Have you seen the archives in Dubline with all the Ferussac letters?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s