The mystery of the portrait of Jeanne Mance

Le mystère du portrait de Jeanne Mance

Photo: Collection of the Religious Hospitallers of Saint-Joseph de Montréal
For more than a century, this has been endlessly reproduced as a representation of plausible traits of Jeanne Mance.

The little picture supposed to represent Jeanne Mance, who stands in the middle of the exhibition dedicated to the founder of Montreal at the Museum of the Hospitallers of the Hôtel-Dieu is an imaginary representation of one of the key figures of the founding of Montréal in 1642. If many people believed that it was a work at the very least inspired of a representation of time, a master’s student in linguistics from the University of Sherbrooke, Gabriel Martin, brings a new light, lifting the veil on the one who carried it out.

For more than a century, this small work to the invoice rather crude has been continually reproduced as a representation of plausible traits of the founder of the Hôtel-Dieu in the early days of the colony. It has more uses. Even canada post has used this representation to pay tribute to Jeanne Mance.

The painting was acquired by the nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu around 1870, ” says Gabriel Martin in light of his research. It has a time been presented as authentic, although its source and bill throw themselves at the outset, a lot of shadows on this claim.

The biographer of Jeanne Mance, the historian and librarian Marie-Claire Daveluy wrote, in the 1950s, that ” all the investigations attempted around this portrait, either in Canada or in France, have remained fruitless so far “. Thirty years later, a specialist in iconography, Denis Martin, concluded the same : “No clue not clearly established the origin of the portrait. “

On this table, in the bottom right, there is yet a signature : L. Dugardin. It was sometimes thought that it was the portrait painter Louise Dujardin, but no one was able so far to identify with certainty the artist. However, says Gabriel Martin, which is working on drafting a Small dictionary of the great Québec of yesterday and today, the answer to the riddle is simply contained in a seal on the back of the table. The red seal indicates a location : 9, rue de Rochechouard, a building in the Ninth arrondissement of Paris.

This address, shows Gabriel Martin, was occupied at the time by the Society of artistic reproduction. The company was created by a certain Louis Ernest Dugardin. This is the name of the painter of light to which we owe the strokes of this Mance of pure composition.

This Louis Dugardin has today sunk into an oblivion from which there was to tell the truth, never quite out. In the periodicals of the time, to live, this painter wholesale and retail releases of the purchase orders for his works command.

But who was the Mance, which was useful to him may be the model ? Can be a simple unknown of Paris appearing in a photograph…

At the sign of his trade as a popular painter, Louis Ernest Dugardin enhances in any case often color the work of photographers, a practice that is so very popular.

“I’d be curious to see the result of an X-ray analysis carried out on this oil,” said Gabriel Marin in an interview to the Duty. According to him, it’s a safe bet that you would find, behind the colors fragile, a photographic image. Dugardin produced a lot of portraits in this way to satisfy a customer eager to combine his imagination with the reality of a painting.

And although it is not forbidden to think that the assumed image of Jeanne Mance, one of the first Montréalistes, is, in truth, the simple layer of a Parisienne of the Nineteenth century.

Other cases

This false portrait of Jeanne Mance is not the first image of a stranger unfairly projected in the popular consciousness as that of a genuine historical figure.

The case of Samuel de Champlain, is in this respect illuminating. Several of the portraits supposed to be of Samuel of Champlain, of which there is no image of the era known, are in fact inspired by an engraving of the Seventeenth century. The one that we want to take for Champlain did exist. It is a financial deemed corrupt, Michel Particelli d Emery, who was at the service of the king, as head of finance and, following a few cases doubtful, escaped injury by hanging on to Lyon.

The painter Théophile Hamel (1817-1870), a specialist of historical figures, has made a portrait of Champlain to 1862, which reproduces trait for trait a burning Particelli of Emery, the man that a lady of the queen called simply ” gros pourceau spiritual and vicious “.

To Hamel, it must be a portrait of Jacques Cartier, which has not ceased to be repeated. However, this representation is rooted more in the reality, since no figure of Cartier time is not come down to us. In the eye of the story, the image is played sometimes of the reason.

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