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Caroline-Cécile Descarsin (Born in Peronne in 1774)

Portrait of Antoine Vieillard de Boismartin in 1791

With the drawing study


Oil on canvas

46 x 61,5 cm


Three chalks

41,5 x 31,5 cm

Rediscovering the works of an artist who was only known through the written word is an extraordinary feeling, and we are fortunate to have the two portraits presented here (the oil on canvas and the drawing study).


Caroline Descarsin, eldest daughter of the painter Rémi Fursy Descarsin (1747-1793), was a precocious harpist admired for her virtuosity. In 1785, when she was barely eleven years old and accompanied by her sister Sophie, five years younger, they made their first successful appearance at the Salon de la Correspondance.


Under the guidance of their father, they subsequently gave a series of concerts "for their benefit". Between 1786 and 1789, they were applauded in Rouen, Bordeaux and Paris. Some of these performances are an opportunity for Rémi Fursy Descarsin to present a selection of his works.

During the Terror, he was arrested and condemned as an instigator of rebels and counter-revolutionary. He was guillotined in Nantes on 24 brumaire year 2 (14 November 1793). His family, who had been in prison before being released, found themselves destitute. The court having been contested, the widow of the painter recovers their apartment and claims to the administrators of the department his furniture, but also for her elder daughter, paintings that her father had given her. "Without these objects, she cannot continue this art, the only property she has to make us exist"[1].


Other mentions mention Caroline's activity as a painter, but we had no work to attribute to her until now.

By chance, a descendant of the model, Alphonse Vieillard de Boismartin, inscribed on the reverse of our painting in 1864, valuable information including the name of its author spelled "Mlle d'Escarcin..., amie" (Miss of Escarcin..., friend), as well as the date of 1791 and the name of the model. This mention of "friend" suggests a special relationship between the two characters.


Did they meet in Rouen, where Caroline performed, while Antoine Vieillard de Boismartin was a lawyer at the parliament? In an artistic circle perhaps? Vieillard de Boismartin is the author of several tragedies such as Almanzor, Blanchard ou le siège de Rouen or Théramène, ou Athènes sauvée. Many other circumstances are possible. After 1789, he held several high judicial positions and became Mayor of Saint-Lô three times.

The style of the painting shows great sobriety. On an almost neutral background appears the three-quarter figure of the model. Served by a rather soft light, the whole shows a beautiful mastery in its execution which suggests that the artist is not at his first attempt. Let us hope that other discoveries will complete this nascent corpus.

[1]Archives départementales de Loire Atlantique, Q471, f.252. Noted by Yves Badel, « Du Nouveau sur le peintre Remi-Fursy Descarcin (Chauny 1747 - Nantes 1793), un talent décapité », in Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire de l’art Français, 2011.

Price on request

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