The Loves of Aaron Burr:
Portraits in Corsetry & Binding
Eliza Jumel (1775-1865)
One of the most remarkable women of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries. Madame Jumel rises from her birth in a brothel in Providence, Rhode Island, to become the wealthiest woman in the United States with a zelig ability to appear in many of the historically important moments of her ninety year life.
Fourteen months after her first husband's death, she married the controversial former United States Vice President, Aaron Burr. She married to increase her social stature; he, for access to her fortune. Burr in turn, squanders the money, a poisonous court battle ensues and the two divorce on September 14, 1836, the day of Burr's death.
Madame Jumel lives the rest of her life in the Manhattan mansion, earning sufficient reputation as an eccentric to be thought to have inspired Charles Dickens’ Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. She dies at age 90 in 1865 and is buried in Manhattan at the Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum.
The personification of Madame Jumel began with the replica of the only dress we know to exist at The Museum of The City of New York Collections. The dress was measured, patterned and recreated in materials as close to the original as possible. The waist, bust and proportions are that of Madame Jumel in the late 1850’s. The bas is a stack of books representing those in the Morris-Jumel Mansion archives in French that we presume to have belonged to Stephen Jumel dyed in coffee. Her bodice is three corsets layered over one another. The first a small brown corset on the inside is that of a ten year old girl in the 1780’s haolding dried plants. Herbs and flowers. The red velvet corset is that of someone in the late 1790’s when Eliza Bowen would have been walking the streets of Providence with a monkey perched on her shoulder. The replica boned bodice in yellow silk is pinned open to reveal the other two corsets represents the material and mercenary achievement she spoiled for all her life.