Sunday, 25 February 2018

Antoine de Sérilly by Danloux

Henri-Pierre Danloux (1753-1809)  Portrait of Antoine de Sérilly (Private Collection)

In 1783, when Danloux returned from Rome to Lyon and Paris, the Mégret de Sérilly family became his most important patrons.  The artist is known to have spent the summer of 1784 in Passy and in 1787 married Antoinette de Saint-Redan, Sérilly's adoptive sister.  Since Danloux stayed in the household and married into the family, it may be assumed he painted them often. However, there are only a few portraits documented. 

This marvellous study of Antoine de Sérilly is the only one of Danloux's portraits reproduced in good quality on the internet. It was contributed to Wikipedia / Wikimedia in 2011 when the painting was included in the exhibition, Petits théâtres de l'intime,  held in the musée des Augustins in Toulouse (22nd October 2011 - 22nd January 2012). There is no further information available, other than that it belongs to "a private collection".

We can still enjoy the image.  It is probably about 1784, the sun is shining and the affable baron is sitting in his garden, resting his gouty leg on a stool.  [It ought to be possible to identify the location, if it is real, from that splendid Classical portico affair; perhaps it is the estate at Passy, or the adjacent domain of Thiel, (where the gardens had been replanted, though the house was neglected)].  M. de Sérilly is stout, relaxed and occupies his space confidently. His clothes are understated and casually worn, but you can see that the material is fine;  I love the way his waistcoat strains over that magnificent paunch and his stocking wrinkles uncooperatively at the ankle.  Notice too the book that he is holding; with its marbled endpaper but no binding, this is a real book, meant for reading. 

Oliver Meslay, former conservateur at Louvre and now director of the Clark Institute of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is an expert on Danloux, and is preparing a catalogue raisonnée.   He underlines the importance of the family in Danloux's career:
 Of all the families of Enlightened nobility at the end of the Ancien Régime, the Mégret d'Etigny / de Sérilly were at the centre of Danloux's social relations. Here, as elsewhere, a new spirit of change blew, and new intellectual movements found their echo.  In the generation of Danloux, Antoine Mégret de Sérilly, the Treasurer General of War, son of the intendent d'Etigny, was a central masculine figure.
Olivier Meslay, article in  Bulletin de la Société de l'histoire de l'art français (2006)

There are two other known Danloux portraits:

The Baronne d'Etigny,  1783

Olivier Meslay comments:
 In 1783 [Danloux] represented   the widow of the intendant,  née Françoise Thomas de Pange.  The artist created a magnificent portrait, treating perfectly the fabrics, the play of light on polished wood, the details of the tapestry frame.  It is an intimate image of the wife of a great official of state.
Olivier Meslay, article in Bulletin de la Société archéologique du Gers, avril 2004, 

Three versions of this painting are known:  
  • the original, which is in private hands (150 cm x 100 cm, signed and dated 1783;  illustrated in the Burlington Magazine for 1909, above)
  •  a studio copy auctioned by Drouot in  2001 (116 cm x 88 cm) 
  •  a miniature on enamel by the Swiss artist Jacques Thouron  now in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. See:
 Hôtel Drouot, Sale of Thursday, 29th March 29,2001, Lot 101:
"Studio of Henri-Pierre Danloux", Portrait  of the Baronne d'Etigny née de Pange

Mégret de Sérilly family portrait

[Mégret de Sérilly] can be seen in the great portrait of the family, warmly embracing his wife, surrounded by his children and his adoptive sister, in the background a painting of his mother and a bust of his late father... 
Olivier Meslay, Bulletin de la Société de l'histoire de l'art français (2006). 
Jacques Touron, after Danloux La famille Mégret de Sérilly (1787).  
Miniature on enamel.  Louvre.
  • Oil "whereabouts unknown" (50 cm x 36 cm)
  • Oil, private collection (235 cm x 116 cm)
  • Miniature by Jacques Touron, in the Louvre
The oils are illustrated in "Danloux", Hubert Duchemin (auctioneers) 


"Danloux", Hubert Duchemin (auctioneers)

Olivier Meslay, "La famille d'Etigny et le peintre Henri-Pierre Danloux", Bulletin de la Société archéologique du Gers, avril 2004, p. 459-465.  [snippet view only]
_____,  "Henri-Pierre Danloux (1753-1809), sa carrière avant l'exil en Angleterre",  Bulletin de la Société de l'histoire de l'art français (2006), p.209-244. [snippet view]

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Bust of Madame de Sérilly by Houdon

Houdon's beautiful and poignant bust of the young Madame de Sérilly was probably completed in 1780 to celebrate her recent marriage.

 A version in plaster painted to resemble terracotta was shown in the Salon of 1781, followed in the Salon of 1783 by a marble, usually identified as the bust in the  the Wallace Collection, which is signed and dated HOUDON F.1782.

 H.H. Arnason, in his study of Houdon, has this appreciation:

"[The Madame de Sérilly is] another outstanding example of Houdon's ability to commemorate the exquisite ladies of eighteenth-century France.  Her face is one of great charm and mobility.  The large, hooded eyes look out with an expression of rapt, even sensuous attention.  The long, soft hair is modelled with particularly loving care;  the upper arms and shoulders are wrapped in a flowing cloak, which encompasses the figure, acts as a base and extends in finished detail across the back.  This is the consummate type of the late Baroque and rococo portrait of a noblewoman, presented with the decorative grace of an earlier time.  She is almost an anachronism among the soberly dressed gentlemen who accompany her in the Salon of 1781.  As she belongs to an age of elegance rapidly drawing to a close, so most of them seem to predict a more democratic, bourgeois, and perhaps less picturesque century."
Arnason, The sculptures of Houdon, 1975, p.58.

The relationship between different examples of the sculpture is a bit of mystery:

At the time when Arnason was writing (1975) two new marble busts had recently appeared on the art market in New York, both signed and dated 1780, in an almost identical style, although one, curiously, was stamped upside down.  They differed from the Wallace Collection in details of drapery and "required more research" ( note 151, p.113).  

One was acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995.,_busto_di_anne-marie.louise_thomas_de_domangeville_de_s%C3%A9rilly,_contessa_di_pange,_1780,_02.jpg

The primacy between the two sculptures is now in some doubt:

See particularly the comments and photographs of Bath antiques dealer David Bridgewater:
"Bust of Madame de Sérilly",  English 18th Century Portrait Sculpture [blog] Post of 19.02.2018
Mr Bridgewater is of the opinion that the Wallace Collection bust is a studio copy and the Chicago bust, where the marble is whiter and less flawed, is the original. The London bust is also missing the bow on the front of Madame de Sérilly's dress. This view would obviously fit with the dates on the sculptures.  The Chicago bust is also considerably larger, 89 cm in height as opposed to 62 cm.  

The provenance for the Wallace Collection bust is given as: Auction at Theil (Yonne), c. 1864.  Duc de Morny; duc de Morny sale, May 1865, perhaps no. 445; Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford.

According to the  US. "French Sculpture Census" site, an "anonymous, untitled treatise in the curatorial file" traces the  provenance of the Chicago bust back to Mme de Sérilly herself: 
1794, Confiscated by the Revolutionary Tribunal [see anonymous, untitled treatise in curatorial file]
1796, Reclaimed by the sitter, la comtesse de Pange [see the same anonymous, untitled treatise]
Passy-sur-Yonne, by descent to the heirs of la comtesse de Pange [see the same anonymous, untitled treatise]
The bust was subsequently acquired by Nathaniel de Rothschild in 1899.

The logical inference seems to be that the the Chicago bust was owned by the Sérillys, and  the Wallace Collection one made by Houdon to exhibit in the 1783 salon?

To complicate matters, a third example - presumably the other bust mentioned by Arnason -  was donated to the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 1975.  It is described as signed and dated on the bottom of the base HOUDON F. 1780. Again this looks to be pure white and the size is given as 87.6 cm x 61 cm.  An expert from the Chicago Institute of Art specifies that the Minneapolis sculpture "appears to be a workshop example based on the Art Institute's bust", but does not say why;  no-one, I think, is terribly certain.

"Portrait of Madame de Sérilly, 1780",  Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Entry on the French Sculpture Census

Monday, 19 February 2018

A lost dream: Madame de Sérilly


Society portraits from the 1780s, of that generation soon to be torn apart by Revolution, have a special poignancy.  Here, captured by Houdon, is Madame de Sérilly, aged seventeen or eighteen, beautiful, poised and forever unconscious of what was to come. In 1793 Mme de Sérilly was among those indicted with Madame Élisabeth, her life saved only because, thanks to the quick thinking of her cousin Mme de Montmorin, she had been able to declare herself pregnant.

Less than a year later Mme de Sérilly was famously to testify  at Fouquier-Tinville's trial.  The historian Henri Wollin remarked, that she appeared "like an apparition from another world, come to bear witness against the Public prosecutor."  Brandishing her own death certificate, she declared that she had been saved only because she had been declared pregnant;  "I saw my husband there," she announced, indicating the bench of the accused, "where today I can see his assassins and his  executioners".
Wallon, Histoire du Tribunal révolutionnaire de Paris, vol.III (1881) p.422
See: John Wilson Croker, Essays on the...French Revolution (1857) p.501:
"We know not that there is anything in the imaginary drama finer than the appearance of this widowed lady, still young, standing in that awful place, and exclaiming, with outstretched hand:J'ai vu LÀ mon mari - J'y vois aujourd'hui ses bourreaux. 

 Madame de Sérilly, née Anne-Marie Louise Thomas de Domangeville (born Paris, 24th August  1762) was the daughter of the general Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas Thomas, seigneur de Domangeville, baron de Mareuil. On 14th October 1779, whilst still at school in the fashionable convent of Panthemont in the rue de Bellechasse , she had married her cousin and guardian Antoine Jean François Mégret de Sérilly, baron de Theil, then thirty-three years old.   It was a highly advantageous match.

The Mégret de Sérilly family epitomised the new liberal aristocracy of finance and government office  in late 18th-century France  - a society fabulously wealthy, sustained by a complex of interrelated dynasties. Originally noblesse de robe from Saint-Quentin in the Aisne, the family was monied, influential and well-connected.  In 1719 the grandfather, François-Nicolas Mégret had acquired the estate of Passy in the Yonne and the seigneuries of Sérilly and d'Etigny in Bourgogne (traditionally the older son took the title "de Sérilly" and the younger "d'Etigny"). His son, Jean Nicolas Mégret, seigneur de Sérilly, became avocat royal,  then in 1750 intendant of Alsace;  his wife was the oldest daughter of Guillaume-François Joly de Fleury, procureur général of the Parlement of Paris. A sister married Jean Pâris de Montmartel, youngest of the four Pâris brothers.  

Subsequently the inheritance passed to Antoine Mégret d'Etigny, the "intendant" who, with monies from his father-in-law Jean-Baptiste Thomas de Pange, was able to buy the offices of conseiller au Parlement and and maître des requêtes, and subsequently became intendant of Auch and Pau,earning for himself a reputation as an enlightened administrator. In 1767, the inheritance passed to Antoine,who from 1772
 enjoyed the important and lucrative office of Treasurer General at the War Office, at first concurrently with his maternal uncle, then in his own right.

The hôtel Mégret de Serilly, now 106 rue Vieille du Temple
The family's Parisian residence, the beautiful 17th-century hôtel Mégret de Sérilly, in the rue Vieille du Temple, had been acquired by Jean-Baptiste Thomas de Pange in 1765. By the late 18th-century the Marais was no longer the most fashionable district of Paris but Sérilly, who purchased the property in his own name in 1775, had the interior remodelled by Jean-Simeon Rousseau de la Rottière in the height of modern taste.  By a strange quirk of fate, the little boudoir designed for Madame by the Rousseau brothers, survives intact in the collections of the V. & A. (see below).  With its intimate scale and seductive cream and gold decor, it epitomised the new aesthetic of informality and conviviality.  "Life at the mansion in the early 1780s", writes Olivier Blanc, "was a dazzling, never-ending round of revelry, accompanied by illuminated displays amidst the flowers blooming in the magnificent, newly-replanted gardens."  During the summer months, the couple moved to the Mégret de Sérilly family seat at Passy, a château lavishly renovated and redecorated by Brongniart and Chevotet at enormous cost. (Blanc, Mansions of Paris, 1998) 

The memoirs of  Dufort de Cheverny paints this portrait of Sérilly and his social circle in Paris at this time:

 [M. de Sérilly was] virtuous, likeable, sensitive and endowed with all the qualities of a gentleman; munificent, magnificent,  well versed in every respect and brought up in a state of luxury bordering on the prodigal.  He had married mademoiselle de Domangeville, his cousin, and he lived in a superb house, in the rue Vieille-du-Temple, opposite Les Égouts, with his mother, the most respected of women, the sister of M. Thomas de Pange, and with his brother Mégret d'Étigny,  an esteemed officer in the Guards.  It was not a house which was open to everyone.  I was introduced by his colleague Boullongne and the company suited me in every respect....
Mémoires du comte Dufort de Cheverny, vol. 1 (1886), p.386

 I lived in intimacy with Sérilly and his family.  I had dinner with them at least once a week.  This society was composed only of relations and a few chosen friends, and I was flattered to be among them.   It was the most respectable house that I have known. The baron de Viomesnil, the comte de Bercheny, their nephew;  M. de Turmilly, colonel; Boullongne..a few famous artists comprised the whole company.  This household, relaxed and modest beyond equal, had an air of happiness due to the sincerity and loyalty which existed there.
Vol. 2 (1886), p.24

The château de Passy-Véron today (from Wikipedia)

The Mégret de Sérilly were in fact very much part of Paris's new cultural elite. High society played court to Madame's beauty, with her luminous grey eyes and lustrous chestnut hair. The playwright Le Moyne dedicated a tragedy to her. Another cousin, was Marie-François-Denis Thomas, the comte de Pange (the "Chevalier de Pange"), the friend of  André Chenier and Madame de Staël -  a connection which placed her in the centre of liberal aristocratic circles. Chenier was presented to her at one of the glittering gathering hosted at the château de Voisins in Louveciennes by Mme de Pourrat, who in 1796 was to be instrumental in securing her release from prison.

The couple patronised the artist Danloux, who married Antoine's adoptive sister, and painted intimate family portraits of the household, one of which is known through a copy in miniature in the Louvre.  Madame, is posed affectionately on her husband's knee; with them are their three children - Armand, Aline playing happily and the newborn Amédée asleep in her cradle.

Jacques Touron, after Danloux La famille Mégret de Sérilly (1787).  
Miniature on enamel.  Louvre.
Even before the Revolution, this glittering and privileged dream had starting to unravel.  In 1787 Mégret de Sérilly,  "adored by his clerks" fell victim to the financial uncertainties of the last years of the Ancien regime.  In June 1787 his office was suppressed, ostensibly as a measure of royal economy. A series of disastrous speculations - notably in the royal arms manufacture at Tulle which involved his friend Boullongue -  forced  him to the brink of  liquidation and bankruptcy.  He was forced to sell the house in the rue du Temple, although a second property at 119 rue des Capucines was made over to him by his mother. In the 1790s he rented a house in the rue de Grenelle where he continued to entertain a small number of guests.  However, the family increasingly resided on the country estate at Passy, where Antoine embraced the role of enlightened cultivateur.

[In the Spring of 1791] My friend Sérilly rented a house near Les Invalides [in the rue de Grenelle]. His business affairs were over; his wife, using all the resources nature had given her, had saved a part of his fortune.  He still had his beautiful estate at Passy, near Sens, and almost 80,000 livres in rentes. He lived well, but very privately, keeping only his most intimate friends:  Boullongne, the president de Salaberry, the baron de Vioménil and d'Etigny his brother.  We dined together every Wednesday when I was in Paris;  it was a touchstone for me.  There we talked openly and we lamented the misfortunes of the State.
Mémoires du comte Dufort de Cheverny, vol. 2 (1886), p.107

As was the case with so many members of the liberal aristocracy, the Revolution cut across the allegiances of family and friends.  With the fall of the monarchy it became increasingly difficult to stand aloof from political events. On 10th August the baron Viomesnil,Sérilly's intimate and a  career soldier, was one of the defenders of the Tuileries.  Dufort de Cheverny tells how the wounded Viomesnil first sought sanctuary at the Venetian embassy then in Sérilly's house in the rue de Grenelle. He managed to pass through the patrols hidden in an empty coach.  Sérilly had him placed in his own bed, whilst he himself posed as a valet.  
There was an unexpected domiciliary visit and M. de Sérilly was asked for. The men were led into the apartment where Viomesnil was in bed, surrounded by pillows and covered with nightcaps.  He ordered his supposed valet-de- chambre and all his people to open up, excusing himself from getting up since for two months he had been subject to a violent attack of gout
Viomesnil feared to compromise his friends further and had himself hidden in a winecellar, where he died three days latter (Mémoires, p.125-6)  According to Bardoux, who has a slightly different version, it was  Mégret d'Étigny, the former guardsman, who was denounced for sheltering Viomesnil to the Representative Maure in the department of the Yonne. (Études.... (1884), p.227)

In September 1792, still hoping to weather the storm,  the Mégret de Sérilly family moved permanently to Passy, On September 18th Sérilly enrolled himself in National Guard and took the civic oath to maintain the Constitution or die in its defence; he busied himself with the affairs of the local commune.  In the winter they were joined in their refuge by the widow of the comte Montmorin (to whom Sérilly had sold the adjoining manor of Thiel), her two married daughters and her young son Calixte.

It was Madame de Sérilly herself who was the first to be troubled by the Revolutionary authorities.  In 5th April 1793, was arrested by the Committee of General Security under suspicion of complicity with her brother Jean-Baptiste Thomas de Domangeville, who had emigrated.  She was taken to Sens, then to Paris for interrogation, but was eventually released. 

The family was not to be left in peace for long.  There were further investigations into the Viomesnil affair and Sérilly's business agent and former valet L'Hoste was arrested in the rue des Capuchines on suspicion of arranging currency export.On 13th February 1794 supper at Passy interrupted by the arrival of three heavily armed police agents who apprehended M. de Sérilly. Madame followed her husband to Paris where she was detained in her turn and sent to the Conciergerie.  Other members of their entourage - Mégret d'Etigny, Mme de Montmorin and Calixte de Montmorin - were also rapidly rounded up and, with the sole exception of Madame, were sent to the guillotine on 10th May. Her brother was executed on 24 May, and André Chenier just before Thermidor, on 25 July 1794.

At the Hospice de L'Evêché, Madame de Sérilly survived the Terror,  possibly thanks to the humanity of a doctor Bayard. It is not certain whether her pregnancy was feigned; probably not, for Dufort de Cheverny, who met her in 1797 mentioned the existence of five children.  On her release, she was able to regain possession of the estate at Passy,  but financial insecurity and misfortune continued to dog her.  In January 1796 she married her cousin François de Pange, only to see him die of tuberculosis a few months later.   Dufort de Cheverny encountered her in Paris in April 1797, living in a dingy appartment in the in the rue Chabanais with her children.  He relates that, despite all her troubles, she seemed to him "every bit as beautiful as when I'd seen her last".  She began to rebuild her social circle and in September 1798 married for third time to  Anne-Pierre,  Marquis de Montesquiou Fezensac, a distinguished and kindly  man in his fifties.  No doubt she had hopes of happiness but it was not to be.  In the December Montesquiou contracted and died horribly of the "black smallpox".  Madame de Sérilly lingered quarantined in their new Parisian apartment, 752 rue Brest, for a few months, then succombed herself.  She died on 17th April 1799, aged just thirty-six.


"Anne-Louise de Domangeville"  Article on Wikipedia

Agénor Bardoux, Études sur la fin du XVIIIe siècle : la comtesse de Beaumont, Pauline de Montmorin (1884), p.232

Félix Chandenier, "Madame de Sérilly: échappée de l'échafaud sous la Terreur", Bulletin de la Société archéologique de Sens, 1891 p.132-61

Denise Ozanam, Claude Baudard de Saint-James (1969) [extracts on GoogleBooks]
(This study of Mégret de Sérilly's counterpart in the Navy has many details of his family background and career)

There is a biography of Madame de Sérilly in English:  Joan Evans, The pursuit of happiness: the story of Madame de Sérilly 1762-1799 (1946), but it is rare and unavailable on the internet.

The Sérilly Cabinet in the Victoria and Albert Museum 

V & A Collections, The Sérilly Cabinet , 1778.
The tiny boudoir was situated between the house and the garden. The decoration represents the four seasons and the cycle of life. 

The piece has recently been dismantled and reinstalled in the V & A's new European galleries:  for further details and a ground plan, see the post of 27.07.2015 on the V & A. blog.

Here are some nice pictures of the hôtel Sérilly today - now divided into private apartments - on the "Paris Promeneurs" website.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

The story of Pauvre Jacques

Pauvre Jacques, quand j'étais près de toi,
Je ne sentais pas ma misère;
Mais à présent que tu vis loin de moi,
Je manque de tout sur la terre.

Quand tu venais partager mes travaux,
Je trouvais ma tâche légère;
T'en souvient-il?  Tous les jours étaient beaux.
Qui me rendra ce temps prospère?

Quand le soleil brille sur nos guérets,
Je ne puis souffrir sa lumière,
Et quand je suis à l'ombre des forêts,
J'accuse la nature entière.

Poor Jacques, when I was near you / I did not feel my troubles / 
But now that you live far from me / I lack everything on this earth.  
When you shared my work / I found my tasks easy / 
Do you remember how fine the days were? / Who can give me back that happy time?
 When the sun shines on our fields / I cannot stand its light.  
And when I am in the shade of the forest / I blame the whole of nature.

Music on YouTube

This sentimental air was probably composed by the marquise de Travanet, former lady-in-waiting to Madame Élisabeth, on the occasion of marriage of Jacques Bosson, the Swiss dairy manager at Montreuil to his sweetheart Marie-Françoise Magnin.  Madame Élisabeth learned that "poor Jacques" was miserable at having to leave his betrothed behind in La Gruyère and arranged for the girl to join him as a dairymaid on the estate. The wedding took place with great ceremony in the parish church of Saint-Symphorien in Versailles on 26 May 1789, just a few days after the opening of the Estates-General. The song was extremely popular throughout the Revolutionary years and was frequently adapted; the royalist Complainte de Louis XVI, set to the tune, is said to have run to 100,000 copies.

Here is Jacques's story as related by Mme de Bombelles:

Madame Élisabeth wanted a Swiss stockman to take care of her cows, and got Mme de Raigecour to ask Mme Diesbach to find her a suitable person in Fribourg.  She wanted him to be trustworthy beyond reproach, because she guarded her milk jealously; her first priority was to distribute it among the poor children of Montreuil; the idea that these unfortunates had sufficient nourishment, made the milk that was left taste delicious to her.  The good Jacques (that was the name of the Swiss stockman)  understood his mistress's intentions, was touched by her kindness and carried out her orders with the upmost zeal.  He would often say to me, "Ah! madame, how good the princess is! There is none so perfect in the whole of Switzerland" .

The honesty and uprightness of this fine young man, so touched Madame Élisabeth that she inquired of Mme Diesbach whether he was happy with her and not homesick.  Questioned by Mme Diesbach, Jacques admitted that there was one thing which spoilt his happiness;  he had left behind in Switzerland a young woman that he had been about to marry when he was summoned to France:  she was miserable in his absence and feared that he would forget her.  When told of these circumstances by Mme Diesbach, Madame Élisabeth charged her with writing to the girl.  She was to inform her that, if she wished to come and join Jacques, madame Elisabeth would permit him to marry her and make her his milkmaid.  You can imagine the joy the girl and the good Jacques felt, when they learned of Madame Élisabeth's kindness.  It was on this occasion that Mme de Travannet composed the air of Pauvres Jacques, which has since become so popular. 

 Jacques and his wife preserved for Madame Élisabeth, up until her last moments, the most touching attachment.  The wife was imprisoned as  a consequence.  Jacques managed to flee and return to Fribourg;  but he came back to France to try to rescue his wife from death.  His courage was crowned with success: he obtained her release and took her back with him to Fribourg, where they both mourned their former protectrice on a daily basis.
Notes of Mme de Bombelles, 1795
Antoine Ferrand, Éloge historique de Madame Élisabeth de France (1814),p.155-7.

The researches of Swiss local historians substantially confirm the tale. Jakob Boschung / Jacques Bosson, was born in 1757 in Bellegarde in La Gruyère and was employed as a stockman on the farm at La Buchille near the little town of Bulle, five leagues south of Fribourg. The farm was owned by the von der Weids of Fribourg and farmed by the Magnin family. When he struck up a romantic liaison with Marie-Françoise Magnin, the girl's disapproving parents forced him to enlist in the Swiss Guards and he was exiled to France. He served in the Regiment of Waldner from 1778 to 1786. On his return to La Buchille he was recommended to Madame Élisabeth by Mme Diesbach, daughter of colonel Affry, an intermediary of the von der Weid family.  What Marie-Françoise's widowed mother thought of Madame Élisabeth's matchmaking is not recorded, but as farm manager at Montreuil Jacques now commanded a respectable income.  Madame von der Weid is reported to have sent the bride a beautiful silk and brocade wedding dress.

 During the Revolution, "Pauvre Jacques" amply repaid his debt of gratitude.  He remained at Montreuil, where he joined the National Guard, and regularly brought milk to Madame Élisabeth at theTuileries:

[On 8th December 1789 Madame Élisabeth reported to the marquise de Bombelles, that she still received news from Montreuil: 
 Jacques comes daily to bring my cream.  Fleury, Coupry, Marie and Mme du Coudray come to see me from time to time. They all seem to love me still...Jacques is in his new lodging.  Mme Jacques is pregnant;  so are all my cows; a calf has just been born.  The hens I will not say much about, because I have rather neglected to inquire for them... 
The life and letters of Madame Élisabeth de France (1901), trans. by Katherine Prescott Wormeley,p.43-44]

In 1793 Jacques was accused of "attachment to the august family of the Bourbons", his wife imprisoned, but he himself managed to flee with his daughter to Switzerland. After fall of Robespierre, the couple were reunited, and spent the second half of their lives at the farm of La Léchère in Bulle.  In 1819 Jacques was decorated by Louis XVIII and awarded a modest  pension in recognition of his loyalty to the French crown. Husband and wife died in 1835 and 1836 respectively.  Their only daughter Marguerite Françoise married the local baker, Pierre Glasson: one of her eight children was the notable local lawyer and poet Nicolas Glasson (1817-1864),  who erected a memorial plaque (presently temporarily removed) in the wall of the local Catholic church of Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens to his grandparents, "Le Pauvre Jacques de Madame Élisabeth de France" and his wife 

 A farm still stood on the site at La Léchère until March 2017, when sadly it was bulldozed to make way for blocks of flats.

The presence of a Swiss stockman at Montreuil was not in itself unusual;  with the vogue for pleasure dairies, went an admiration – part practical, part sentimental - for fine Swiss cattle and the health-giving properties of their milk. Swiss herds from the La Guyère region, which was famed for its black-and-white Fribourgeoise cows, might be driven all the way to France.   In 1773 a "laiterie des vaches suisses" was established by [? Johann] Herrenschwand in the  Champs-Élysées in Paris.  Sadly, despite demand, the venture was not a success:  according to Mercier, Parisians had high hopes for the restorative powers of the milk, but, since it proved impossible to transport the lush pastures of the Swiss mountains, the cows grew thin, gave ordinary milk and finished by being sent to the butchers (Mercier, Tableau de Paris, vol. 6, p.289)

Aristocratic and royal estates had more success. The existence of Swiss regiments in France provided the necessary contacts to procure cattle and experienced dairymen.   In 1766 the duc de Choiseul, used a recruitment agent, M. d'Erlach of Berne, to arrange for cows to be brought to Paris: an evocative account survives of their departure from Fribourg:
This commission was entrusted to M. Pierre Roulin, a  former farmer, bourgeois and taxpayer of Fribourg;  he bought twelve black cow and two big black bulls [!] from the canton of Fribourg. He had five cowbells made in Berne.

He left on a Friday afternoon via the porte de Romont with his twelve cows and two bulls; the ribbons on the bells were of red leather patterned with flowers.
He had with him a cart loaded with equipment for making cheese.

Roulin and his two companions wore  flowers in their hats. The cowman was dressed in traditional costume, with striped trousers and a red waistcoat with lace....
Each cow cost seven louis d'or...It was a M. d'Erlach of Berne who had praised Fribourgeoise cattle to M. de Choiseul.  
[Passage from the Cahiers d'annotations of dom (?)Nicolas Gobet]

In 1785 Antoine Buchs, a farmer from Marsens, was asked to supply twenty cows and two bulls as breeding stock for the royal estate at Rambouillet.  The intermediary on this occasion was the comtesse of Diesbach. Buch's son Joseph drove the cattle to the Île-de-France, accompanied by a second man and his wife who stayed in France to take care of the animals.  

This engraving of 1811 by E.W. Witte shows a magnificent bull which belonged to Antoine Buchs.  The artist described Buchs as "a man without pretention, from the simple peasant class, who owns a distinguished herd".  He also confirmed that he had sent his cows "as far as Paris and Turin".  
Engraving acquired by the Musée gruérien in Bulle, in 2011.

By the late 1780s the Encyclopédie méthodique could report that the Fribourgeoise breed was successfully established at Rambouillet and had spread to several French provinces.  In all probability the cows at Montreuil were descended from this stock.


Serge Rossier, "Pauvre Jacques", une histoire d’hier et d’aujourd’hui" article in  La Gruyère, 06.04.2017.

"Pauvre Jacques, une histoire comme on les aime..."Archives culturelles de la Vallée de Joux, December 2012.  pdf. brochure containing various texts; music etc.

Register entries for the marriage of Jacques Bosson and Marie Magnin,  26th May 1789, and for the baptism of their daughter Marguerite Françoise on 19th March 1790 are reproduced in  Alcide Beauchesne, La vie de Madame Élisabeth, soeur de Louis XVI. vol.1 (1870), p.550-54.

On the vogue for Swiss cows: 
Pierre-Olivier Fanica, Le lait, la vache et le citadin: du XVIIe au XXe siècle (2008), p.188-9.
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