François Aubert

French (1829 - 1906)

Portrait of the Emperor Maximilian in His Coffin

photograph | albumen print from a wet collodion negative
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  • Portrait of the Emperor Maximilian in His Coffin

    François Aubert, Portrait of the Emperor Maximilian in His Coffin, 1867; albumen print from a wet collodion negative, 8 13/16 in. x 7 7/16 in. (22.38 cm x 18.89 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase;

Ferdinand Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, accepted the Mexican crown in 1864 by appointment of Napoléon III. The French were seeking to extend imperial power in Mexico, but support of foreign rule quickly waned and the French army withdrew from the country.

Emperor Maximilian briefly maintained the throne until troops of the displaced Mexican president, Benito Juárez, captured, tried, and executed him in 1867. Maximilian offered each of the men in the firing squad an ounce of gold and asked them to aim for his heart; he did not want to be defaced so that his mother, the Archduchess, could see him once more in his coffin. Despite his pleadings, a bullet hit him in the eye.

Aubert, the court photographer in Maximilian's short-lived empire, photographed the monarch in his coffin. A glass eye, taken from a local statue of the Virgen de los Remedios, fills the Emperor's empty socket.

8 13/16 in. x 7 7/16 in. (22.38 cm x 18.89 cm)
Acquired 1999
Collection SFMOMA
Accessions Committee Fund purchase


men, death, corpses, monarchs, emperors, grids, Mexico, Mexican Revolution, executions, firing squads

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