Celebrated French Beauty 1777-1849
Madame Recamier was a celebrated French Beauty, considered by many asthe most beautiful and graceful woman of her day. Because of the brilliancy of her conversation, manners and the charm of her person she made her home a haven for men of education and genius.
Jeanne Francoise Julie Adelaide Recamier, usually known as Juliette, was born in Lyons on December 3, 1777 . Not much is known about her youth, but she was the daughter of a banker named Bernard, with whom she eventually moved to Paris . At the young age of fifteen, Juliette married Jacques Recamier, a wealthy banker much older than herself. In fact, he was three times her own age.
Her home was a place of rest for great men of her day. She was a hostess of great wit and beauty and her salon attracted prominent literary of political figures. To be invited to her house, one was assured of plenty of food and good company. To be invited to her salon meant you were somebody and that you would be rubbing shoulders with the great men of the day. Under the rule of the French directory and during the consulate and empire her salon was constantly visited by such distinguished people as Lucien Bonaparte, Moreau, Bernadotte, La Harpe, Benjamin Constant, and David. Her distinguishing traits were an extreme sweetness of disposition and tenderness of heart, whichobtained her the affection of all who knew her. It should be noted that she was quite unspoiled by the homage that she was paid because of her extraordinary beauty. Because of her temperament, there was never a scandal about all the men who were guests in her home.
Because her husband was financially ruined by Napoleon’s policies, the salon of Madame Recamier took on a form of opposition to the government and was eventually compelled by Napoleon to leave Paris . She resided for some time at Lyons , then with the celebrated Madame de Stael at Coppet, which featured her in her novel “Corinne”. It was here that she met Prince August ofPrussia who wanted to marry her, if her husband would consent to a divorce. He did consent, but Juliette would not desert him in his time of adversity.
She then went to Italy and did not again enter France until the fall of Napoleon, when she returned to Paris and reopened her salon. Because of further financial setbacks in 1819 , Juliette moved to a suite in the Abbaye-aux-Bois near Paris , but her house nevertheless continued to be the resort of eminent mend, among whom was the writer and statesman Vicomte Francois de Chateaubriand, who was her devoted admirer. Though she was not an author and wrote nothing herself, through her connections, including her friendship with Madame de Stael, she exercised considerable influence upon French literature.
For some years before her death, Juliette became blind. This affliction she bore with the most gracious serenity, never complaining of it except as it prevented her from giving attention to her friends.