Some faces launch 1,000 ships; some faces immortalize a piece of furniture. Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier (ray-cam-ee-ay), otherwise known as Juliette, was born on December 4, 1777. Her family was from Lyon, and her father was part of the king’s circle of advisors. She went from her convent to her husband at the age of only 15. Jacques-Rose Récamier was 45 and a friend of her family. In fact, rumor suggests that he may have been her father who married Juliette so that she could legitimately inherit his estate. While this is unproven, it does provide a cogent explanation for why their marriage was never consummated.
A hilarious quotation attributed to her is, “Mon chien est insupportable, mais je le garde pour des raisons sentimentales : mon mari le déteste,” which means, “My dog is insupportable, but I keep him for sentimental reasons : my husband hates him.” Apparently, all wasn’t roses and harp music in the Récamier household.
Juliette Récamier’s passions were sublimated into her Salon that attracted the intelligentsia of the day. Artists stood in line for the opportunity to paint her. The classic pose by Jacques-Louis David, above, has her reclining on a high-armed daybed that was ultimately named after her.
But she was no empty-headed socialite. Two of her constant visitors were writers Germaine de Staël and Francois-René de Chateaubriand in addition to former royalist Generals who were unimpressed with Napoléon. Récamier didn’t make matters any better for herself when she refused to serve as the Empress Joséphine’s lady-in-waiting. Ultimately, Napoléon exiled Récamier from the capital.
If her husband’s plan in marrying her was indeed to pass on his wealth, that didn’t work out. He lost his fortune in a series of reversals. In fact, he was willing to divorce her so that she could marry a Prussian Prince. Neither the divorce nor the remarriage, however, ever took place.
She died of cholera at the age of 71 on May 11, 1849.
Read more about her: Juliette Récamier
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