Friday, 14 May 2021

Madame Goujon

It is always satisfying to be able to put a picture in context. Here, is a portrait auctioned in 2012 of Madame Goujon, née Jeanne Marguerite Nicole Ricard (1745-1802), the mother of  Jean-Marie Goujon. It is the work of the Parisian portrait painter, Adèle Varillat. who signs it on the left-hand side of the canvas, "Me Varillat".  From the costume, the image probably dates from the later Revolutionary period;  perhaps from the time when Madame Goujon's life had already been marked by the grief of her son's condemnation and suicide. 

File:Madame Varillat - Portrait of Madame Goujon (Jeanne Marguerite Nicole Ricard, 1745-1802).jpg - Wikimedia Commons 
Oil on canvas, 65cm x 54cm

Sold by Drouot in Paris, "Meubles et objets d'art", 12th December 2012. lot 87.

The Sitter

 Nicole Ricard was the daughter of Joseph Ricard, first secretary to the Intendant of Bourgogne in Dijon.  According to Goujon's 19th-century biographer Jarrin, the family may have had property or relations in Bourg-en-Bresse, where Jeanne Marguerite Nicole lived after her marriage.  Her mother, née Marie Durocher,  was buried in the church of Notre-Dame de Bourg in December 1761.  

Images d’Art (

There survives a striking pastel  portrait of the infant Nicole ascribed to Quentin La Tour.

 According to  family tradition, La Tour had presented the portrait to Nicole's father in recompense for some service he had been rendered. It was acquired from the Goujon family in 1898 by the Marquise Arcanati Visconti and presented to the Louvre in 1913.  

 Nowadays the portrait  is usually attributed to either Simon-Bernard Lenoir (1729-1789) [by Neil Jeffares and Xavier Salmon]  or to Jacques-Charles Allais (1704-c.1759). [More recently by Jeffares in the online Dictionary of pastellist]

On 9th February 1762, at the age of only seventeen, Nicole married Alexandre Claude Goujon, a senior administrator in the  Ferme des aides.  Their daughter Perrine-Claudine-Sophie was born in 1763 and their oldest son  Jean-Marie in 1766. Two further sons followed, Alexandre-Marie, born in Dijon in 1776, and Antoine, born in 1784.  On the death of her husband, Nicole  retired with her children to a family property in  Auxerre.  In 1793 they moved to Versailles, where Sophie married her brother's friend Pierre-François  Tissot.   In 1795 two defences of Goujon were published in the name of the "Widow Goujon", but these are almost certainly the work of Tissot rather than Nicole herself - they emphasise that the deputy's private life was as virtuous as his public conduct.  After Goujon's death, Tissot supported the entire household.  In later years the family settled in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, where Tissot owned a factory making lanterns.  I can find nothing more regarding Madame Goujon herself, who died in 1802.  Alexandre Goujon became a cavalry officer in Napoleon's army; he fought at Iena, and was author of several works, including "Thoughts of a soldier at the tomb of Napoleon".  He died in 1823 as a result of a fall sustained at Eylau.  In the early 20th-century the  daughter and granddaughter of Antoine Goujon, inheritors of the papers of the Conventionnel,  were still living in Paris, at 62 rue de Babylone.

The Artist

Adèle Varillat, née Tourezy (1769-1860) is described as a portrait painter in Paris, pupil of Regnault and Lethière.  She exhibited in the Paris Salons of  1795 and 1833. During the Restoration she emigrated to England, exhibiting  at the Royal Academy between 1816 and 1820.  Françoise Brunel lists three portraits by Mme Varillet which belonged to the Goujon family: the sitters are Goujon's father (?);  his mother (no doubt the picture auctioned in 2012); and, thirdly, Sophie Tissot with Alexandre Goujon's wife, Sophie de Saint-André, who was Tissot's niece and adoptive daughter [Les martyrs de Prairial, p.87].  This third picture was sold by auction in 2007: here it is on Wikipedia:

File:Portrait de Mme Tissot (née Sophie Perrine Goujon) et Mme Goujon (née Sophie de Saint-André).jpg - Wikimedia Commons 
Oil on canvas, 73cm x 92 cm

"Veuve Goujon" by Boilly

File:Louis-Leopold Boilly -
Portrait de la veuve Goujon.jpg - Wikimedia Common

Oil on canvas, 21.5cm x 16.5 cm

This portrait  of the "Veuve Goujon" by Boilly was sold by Aguttes at Neuilly in December 2018.

There is no clue as to the identity of the sitter. She seems  too young, at the date suggested by the clothing, to be "our" Widow Goujon.  However, a miniature portrait  set in the frame, which  presumably depicts her late husband, seems to show a man of the Ancien régime, in a long lawyer's wig.


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