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.

The painting’s description reads:

The Reception of the Ambassadors of the King of Siam Rama IV Mongkut

Jean Leon Gerome
Creation date: 1864
Dimensions: work: 129.2 x 260.5 cm frame: 201 x 340 x 20 cm, 250 kg
Material and technique: oil on canvas

The reception of the ambassadors of the king of Siam Rama IV Mongkut took place on June 27, 1861, in the ballroom of the castle of Fontainebleau. It celebrated the treaty signed between Siam and France, August 15, 1856, which, after other treaties with Great Britain and the United States, ensured the access to the western trade of this country formerly closed to trade. The emperor and the empress, installed under a canopy, receive the ambassadors of Siam in the presence of the whole court. The gifts of the King of Siam (still kept at the Château de Fontainebleau, in the “Chinese museum” of the Empress *) are placed at the foot of the platform, on either side of the alley where the following ambassadors crawl the Siamese custom of salvation reserved for sovereigns. * [Except the objects stolen during the burglary in 2015, in particular the crown of the king of Siam …]

Person’s at the reception:

Napoleon III, Eugénie de Montijo, Napoléon-Eugène-Louis-Jean-Joseph Bonaparte, prince imperial, Phagia Sphiphat, Khan Abatranay, Anne Debelle, Princess of Essling, Pauline-Marie-Ghislaine van der Linden d’Hoogvorst, Duchesse de Bassano , Maria-Anna-Catherine-Clarissa-Cassandra Zenobio, Countess Walewska, Sophie de Viry, Baroness of Viry Cohendier, Françoise-Laurence de La Rochelambert, countess of La Poëze, Marie-Charlotte-Mathilde-Valentine de Billing, Mme de Saulcy, Constance-Adèle Gérard de Rayneval, Jane-Mary Thorn, baroness of Pierres, Reverend Père La Renaudie, Napoléon-Joseph-Hugues Maret, Duc de Bassano, Alexandre-Alban Rolin, Bernard-Pierre Magnan, Félix-Marnès Baciocchi, Napoléon-Henri -Edgar Ney, prince of Moskowa, Edouard-Antoine Thouvenel, Emile-Félix Fleury, Jean-Baptiste-Philibert, Count Vaillant,Alexandre-Florian-Joseph Colonna, Count Walewski, Jacques-Albert Verly, Jacques Félix Auguste Lepic, Charles-François de Waubert de Genlis, Pierre-Claude-Louis, Count Tascher de La Pagerie, Léonel, Marquis de Toulongeon, Georges-Jacques- Marie, count of Arjuzon, Louis-Frédéric-Joseph Caignart de Saulcy, Etienne, baron de Pierres, Louis-Alexandre, Baron de Montbrun, Prosper Mérimée, Ghjuvan-Battista dit Titu Franceschini-Pietri, Jean-Henri-Félix, Baron Morio de L’Isle, Charles-Ludovic-Marie, prince de Polignac, Charles-Louis de Montigny, Le Bon-Desmottes, Jean-Baptiste-Auguste-Philippe-Dieudonné Verchère de Reffy, Ferdinand-Alphonse Hamelin, Emmanuel-Jean-Baptiste, Baron Hamelin, René-Charles-Humbert of La Tour du Pin Chambly, Marquis of La Charce, Henri of Roger de Cahusac, Marquis of Caux, Dieudonné-Charles-Emmanuel Klein of Kleinenberg,Baron de Vassart, Baron de La Jus, Rodolphe-Auguste-Louis-Maurice, Comte d’Ornano, Marie-Jean-Pierre-Hubert, Duke of Cambaceres, Joseph-Prosper, Baron Sibuet, César-Florimond, Marquis of Fay de La Tour-Maubourg, Aimé-François-Edmé-Alexandre-Henri, Baron Lambert, Commander Oppermann, Louis-Godefroy Jadin, Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, Charles-François Jalabert, Auguste Nelaton, Jean-Léon Gérome.


  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?


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