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Guide to the Saint-Mémin Print Collection
1794-1808
 PR 226

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on January 05, 2012
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Mémin was born in France in 1770. He served as an officer in the French Army, and was exiled after the French Revolution. When he arrived in the United States in 1793, he began to teach himself the arts of engraving and painting, producing some views of New York City as early as 1794. His first work was published in 1796, the year he began a portrait business with Thomas Bluget de Valdenuit, a fellow Frenchman. The two utilized the physiognotrace, a device whereby a sitter's profile was traced by a bar, and a pantograph, with a piece of chalk attached to its end, drew the same profile in a smaller dimension onto a piece of paper. Details were then added to the outline drawing. Another pantograph was used to trace the drawing and produce a continuous line engraving on a copper plate. Saint-Mémin then utilized a roulette, a tool of his own invention, to produce shading on the engravings. The sitter usually received the drawing, the copper plate and a dozen engravings for a set fee.

While in business with Valdenuit, Saint-Mémin produced the engravings from his partner's drawings. The partnership dissolved after about a year, and Saint-Mémin went on to create both the portrait drawings and engravings himself. He left New York in 1798, and traveled down the east coast of the United States, with stays in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, and Charleston. In 1810, Saint-Mémin returned to France, effectively ending his portrait business. He returned briefly to America, but moved to France in 1814, where he lived until his death in 1852. During his stay in America, Saint-Mémin drew a total of more than 900 portraits and engraved more than 800 of these.

Sources:

  • Miles, Ellen G. Saint-Mémin and the Neoclassical Profile Portrait in the America. Washington: National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Institue Press, 1994.
  • Morgan, John Hill. "The Work of M. Fevret de Saint-Mémin," in the Brooklyn Museum Quarterly, January 1918, Vol. V, No. 1.