Victor Jacquemont

In 1991 the European Council launched the European Heritage Days. Throughout Europe, thousands of sites, normally closed to public, open their doors for a few days in September, normally during a weekend. In France, these days took place this weekend.

I could have gone to the Elysée Palace (and have greeted Nicolas and Carla) or to the Paris Town Hall (and have greeted Bertrand), but the queues are enormous. I made the National Assembly two years ago, but this year I chose some more local and modest sites.

Different associations take the opportunity to create some local events. I went to one organised in the area where I live, Batignolles, Paris 17. My friend and historian Rodolphe Trouilleux, author of the bestseller Paris Insolite et Secret (just appearing in a new edition) had, together with actor and director Jean Grimaud, written a play about Victor Jacquemont, botanist, geologist and writer, who travelled to India in 1828 and died there of a disease at the age of 31, in 1832.

Many of us have regularly passed on the small rue Jacquemont, but hardly anybody of us would know anything about the person behind the name. We now know that it was worth learning something about him. His life was told in a number of scenes, played by some professional but mostly by amateur actors along the street and in the courtyards.

In a few words, what we learned about Victor Jacquemont: Excellent student of medicine, geology, botany, he was also highly interested in music and literature. He established friendship with Stendahl, Alexandre Dumas, Prosper Merimée (who wrote “Carmen”, which later gave the opera)... and got into an obviously too one-sided love with an Italian female singer. He was advised that the best way to forget was to travel. He travelled first to the U.S. (recommended by La Fayette, friend of the family) and Haïti. There he got a proposition to travel to India on a mission for the Jardin des Plantes (the Paris Botanical Gardens) - see previous post.

In India he visited Pondichéry, Calcutta, Lahore (met the emperor), Ladakh, Bardhaman... During the three and a half year he spent in India, he collected thousands of plants, stones, naturalized animals... all shipped back to France. His friends, especially Prosper Mérimée, saw to it that his work became known. The collection is today still preserved at the Jardin des Plantes and his wide and well written correspondence with family and friends has been published and the originals can be found at our National Library. A small temporary exhibition with samples had been organised – unfortunately I was not allowed to make any close-ups (copyright issues). There was also a small exhibition of especially embroidered art made by an Indian community.
Here you can get an idea of what Victor Jacquemont looked like, one portrait made by the wife of Propser Mérimée and another one by Claude Monet.

PS, added: It seems that Prosper never married (although he liked women). So, the portraitiste can not be his wife, which my source indicated. ? As Adam remarked, the portrait made by Monet must be made after the death of Victor; he started painiting some 30 years later.

Added: September 28: There is an error: The Monet paininig is well of a Victor Jacquemont, but another one!


Marie-Noyale said...

Glad to see that you are back.
I was missing my "Paris through your lens "!!
Prosper Merimee's wife was not a bad artist either!

Virginia said...

I agree with Marie- Noyale, Paris through YOUR lens is always so interesting and I learn so much about the city I love. I'm sad I missed these days where you can go and visit at no cost! I've decided no matter when I go to Paris, when I come home...... I"ve miss something...many things! This post was of great interest, Peter. You've gotten right back into the swing of things. Merci mon ami!

Thérèse said...

C'est vrai je ne savais rien de ce sieur Jacquemont. Et découverte du tableau de Monet... Merci

Carole said...

Ah ces Victor.....
Bonne journée Peter !

lyliane six said...

J'espère que tout s'est bien passé chez toi, je pense que ce n'est pas toi qui as eu le temps de se rafraichir dans la fontaine!!
C'est la rue où Michel est né, il y avait une clinique dans le temps.Je vais lui dire de lire ton blog, il ne connais pas le personnage, moi non plus d'ailleurs, et tes images me donnent un avant goût de mon voyage en Inde. Bonne semaine.

Cergie said...

Prosper Mérimée a surtout écrit "la Vénus d'Ille" et il était inspecteur général des monuments historiques...
A l'époque, il y avait des honnêtes hommes, ces personnes si cultivées un peu comme Victor Jacquemont qui s'intéressait à tant de domaines et est mort si jeune.
[Hier j'étais en face du musée Edith Piaf, chez mon fils dans le 11ème ! En habitant à Paris, on habite dans un musée. Tu sais, Peter, tes messages, tes photos à toi aussi sont à l'image de tes rencontres et donc parle de ton univers...]

Adam said...

This story reminds me of something but I'm not sure what. I'm pretty sure that a 'hidden' side of it was written in a book I read, but I can't remember what book or any more details of the story!

Interesting that Monet painted him - he wasn't even born when Jacquemont died!

alice said...

Quel bel esprit que ce Victor. J'admire toujours ces personnes qui, non contentes d'exceller dans un domaine particulier, s'intéressent à de multiples autres sujets...Et ces animations lui ont redonné vie!
Mon étudiante ne savait où donner de la tête hier, devant un si vaste choix, elle a visité l'Institut de France (et découvert qu'on pouvait accéder pour 15 euros l'année à la bibliothèque Mazarine!), puis plusieurs hôtels particuliers rue de Grenelle.

hpy said...

C"'est une bonne idée de rendre le nom d'une rue, ou d'une place, d'une avenue, vivant lors des journées du patrimoine. Souvent on voit rue Machin, rue Truc, et ce nom de rue revient dans plusieurs villes sans qu'on ait une idée du personnage derrière le nom.

from cali said...

Now I am curious to know more about "the person behind the name" of other streets. An interesting and sad story.

Blind Fly Theater said...

AH HA! So, there is proof "friend and historian Rodolphe Trouilleux", you were meant to be in this life (or one previously) a history professor!
Beautiful post, Peter... I especially like the photos of the silk dancers -- You are an exquisite photographer, capturing grace in movement.
It is good (spectacularly great, really!) to have you back from Sweden and in Paris once again, Peter.
David *

Blind Fly Theater said...

PS -- I have moved the SparkleMirror blog to my own website, though it is still hosted by Blogger. Blogger has assured me that all of my friends will be connected just as if I still had the blogger address. We'll see... If you have any problems connecting, please alert me at sparklemirror.gmail.com
Thanks again Peter!
David *

Blind Fly Theater said...

PPS -- I really meant sparklemirror@gmail.com, but I'm sure you knew that, huh? just making sure ;)

Anonymous said...

noon c'est ne pas vrais :P je peux travailler beaucoup pour ils vont etre géniales ;p mais je remecie beacoup

Alain said...

Te connaissant, j'aurai plutôt pensé que tu avais profité des journées du patrimoine (merci Jacques Lang) pour visiter le Moulin Rouge. Ton Victor des Batignoles a une bien jolie plaque de rue : écrivain humaniste, c'est un joli programme.

Olivier said...

en finalite cela fait un bel hommage, j'aime bien ces journées, on melange fete et culture. superbe tes danseuses

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Fantastic pictures as always! And yes, I have read about Victor Jacquemont before and his expedition to India! Thanks for the notes here, they are very informative!

claude said...

Ben voilà ! Je vais me coucher moins bête ce soir. C'était un illustre inconnu pour moi. Merci pour ce cours d'histoire. J'aime beaucoup le portait de ce Monsieur fait par la femme de Proper Mérimée. Il est mort bien jeune cet homme.

Ruth said...

Like Keats he died too young. It's wonderful that France has preserved his artifacts from India.

Those dancing Indian women are so beautiful, what a treat.

I'm thinking of you and all you have to do in these days.

Claudia said...

Very interesting, I didn't have a clue as to who Victor Jacquemont was. The man in the paintings doesn't seem to be the same, does he? The first depiction is very romantic and Monet's is very... Monet-esque. They look set almost 50 years apart in what regards fashion.

Cezar and Léia said...

Very beautiful and informative post dear Peter!
Great work!
I loved your collages, always perfect!
Léia :)

arabesque said...

what a festive event in a street that has a deep history...paying hommage to a great artist with a touch of indian culture.
certainment, une bonne histoire!

Kate said...

Peter, It's always so good to have you back where you belong since you educate us so well. I like all the photos on this post, but the swirl of colours on the India post is delightful. I've been in India and loved the exotic sights and smells so you brought back good memories.

Kate said...

Peter, It's always so good to have you back where you belong since you educate us so well. I like all the photos on this post, but the swirl of colours on the India post is delightful. I've been in India and loved the exotic sights and smells so you brought back good memories.

James said...

Interesting post Peter. I enjoyed the history and the pictures.

Unknown said...

Fantastic portrait of the lady next to the Victor Jacquemont sign!

PeterParis said...

... and I'm happy to see you back here commenting! :-)

Hope to see you back here one day for some swinging! :-)

Il y a deux jours, je ne savais rien non plus! :-)

PeterParis said...

Tu penses à un Victor particulier? :-)

Tu pars en Inde? Génial! :-)

Oui, tu as raison, mais je pensai que pour mes lecteurs étrangers, Carmen était le plus connu! :-)

PeterParis said...

You are right, he obviously started painting some 30 years after the death of Victor. I found however this painting on several sites, so I suppose it's a postume kind of phantasy portrait. :-)

Je suis content que ton étudiante s'intègre vite - et de nouveau - dans la vie parisienne! :-)

Comme tu sais, rue Hélène n'est pas loin! (C'est un Monsieur Hélène!) :-)

PeterParis said...

From Cali:
Then you have a big task in front of you! :-)

Thanks for your always nice words! Yes, it's nice to beck "home"! :-)

Yes, I found the new address without any problems! It works fine! :-)

Anna B:
Oui, c'est vrai! :-)

PeterParis said...

Les artistes n'étaient pas là à l'heure de la visite! :-)

Oui, c'est une bonne initiative! :-)

One of the few who knew something about him! :-)

PeterParis said...

On apprend tous les jours! :-)

Many of the best die too young! :-)

Yes, as I added in my post and remarked above, it's obvious that if this really is Victor, it must be some kind of phantasy portrait made a few decades after his death! Good remark! :-)

PeterParis said...

... and you always so kind! :-)

Yes, a very good initiative! :-)

I just MUST go to India as well! :-)

PeterParis said...

Glad you liked it! :-)

... and she is a good actress as well (professional)! :-)

GMG said...

I don't know if the Heritage Days are having some impact in Portugal, but this year, with the elections around, no one pays atention to it... ;))

PeterParis said...

Here it's a tremendous success! Fortunatley and unfortunately! :-)

Nisha said...

I am writing on my blog about Pondicherry and French influence it had and you are writing about a French person who went to that place. :-)

Glad to know about him. We do have a street in Pondicherry called "Dumas street".


PeterParis said...

Yes, a nice coincidence! ... and nice to see you comment here! :-)

Unknown said...

Sorry I have to correct a very common mistake: the painting by Claude Monet is not Victor Jacquemont's portrait but another Victor Jacquemont's one who was born later - a nephew I think. Claude Monet was born in 1840 and the painting was done in 1868-69

Désolée, le portrait n'est pas celui de Victor Jacquemont le naturaliste, mais un portrait d'un autre Victor Jacquemont né plus tard -je crois qu'il s'agit d'un de ses neveux. Claude Monet naquit en 1840, soit 8 ans après le décès de V. Jacquemont et le tableau date de 1868-69.

Dominique, une parente qui a souvent entendu parler de lui dans la famille