Josephine Baker – Unseen Pictures

There is so much information about Josephine Baker online, and despite Sheryl being a huge fan, we doubt we have any new information or could contribute anything that can’t be easily accessed elsewhere online. That being said, we may have one thing special that no one else has – Private photographs.

A very brief history:

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, United States in 1906, Josephine’s childhood was truly awful. With minimal contact with her mother, no father, living in a cardboard box and desperately poor she would perform comedy dances on the corner of her street for money. By the age of 13 and having married, she was travelling to New York to perform in clubs. In 1921 she was married a second time, before the age of 16.

Already divorced twice by 1925, at 19 years of age Josephine travelled to France where she would immediately become a success dancing as the opening act for La Revue Nègre at the Folies Bergère.

A huge level of fame would follow and before long, was one of the worlds most celebrated women.

During the second world war Josephine was recruited by the French intelligence ministry to act as a spy. Using her celebrity status she was able to gain entry from one party to another and mingle with high ranking officials gaining information she would relay back to the French resistance. She also hid refugees and resistance fighters in her Chateau in South France. For her work she was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur and the Rosette de la Résistance. “France made me what I am, The Parisians gave me their hearts, and I am ready to give them my life.” She would say of her decision to work as a spy.

Her fame allowed her to become wealthy and at one time owned most of the village of Les Milandes where her chateau was. Overspending and bad decisions sadly meant that by 1968 she was broke and lost her chateau due to unpaid debts. The famous picture of a 62 year old Josephine Baker sitting on the steps of her chateau with her cat and a shopping bag, having been locked out after popping out to buy some bread is a tragic image, almost as famous as her banana dance image taken by Walery.

It was Josephines friend, Princess Grace of Monaco who would help her during this time, offering her an apartment in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin near Monaco. From there Josephine was able to rebuild her life and once again starred in a huge number of stage performances.

Josephine worked up until her death aged 68, on 12 April 1975. Her funeral attracted over 20,000 mourners. She received a Catholic funeral at L’Église de la Madeleine in Paris and received full military honors, the only American woman to do so. She would later have a private family funeral in Monte Carlo and was interred in the cemetery of Monaco.

It has recently been announced that at some point this month (November 2021) Josephine is to re-interred in the Pantheon in Paris. A truly high honour.

The Painting:

When we purchased this painting of Josephine’s chateau by her good friend Maurice Brennier-Rousseau, it came with some private photographs from the Rousseau family. We suspect he painted this as a gift for Josephine although trying to retrace this paintings history has proven to be impossible.

This painting is currently still for sale on our website complete with the original photographs as we could not bring ourselves to part the two and break up the history of the piece(s).

Taken in a relaxed environment, the photographs show Josephine in conversation, smiling and laughing with friends, there’s even a chicken in the mix. We believe these were taken in August 1954 when Josephine would have been 48 years of age and come from the private collection of the Brennier-Rousseau family and not made available to the public until now. With the exception of one or two photographs, they would appear to have all been taken on the same day judging by the clothing worn.

The Pictures:

These are just 5 of the 10 or so pictures we have that are being sold with the painting. The others are very similar but we felt that whoever buys the painting should have something special so didn’t feel it would be appropriate to share them all.

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