In 1799, three years after their marriage, First Consul Bonaparte and Josephine purchased the estate of Malmaison, located west of Paris. A year later, under the supervision of the architects Percier and Fontaine, the château was completely redecorated in the purest, Roman-flavoured Neoclassical style. The couple’s favourite home during the time of the Consulate (1799-1804), Malmaison remained Josephine’s personal residence after her divorce from the emperor in 1809. The inventory made following the Empress’s death in 1814 tells us that this cartonnier, the ancestor of the modern filing cabinet, was kept in the library.
Still very much in the Louis XVI style, it probably predates the Neoclassical changes made to the château’s decor in 1800, and was probably acquired by the Bonapartes before buying the property. Its understated ornamentation indicates the elegant simplicity of the future Imperial couple’s lifestyle during the first years of Napoleon’s meteoric rise under the government of the Directory. Once becoming emperor, Napoleon maintained this atmosphere in his private apartments, notably in his study, where practicality reigned.