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Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard Récamier (4 December 1777 - 11 May 1849) was a Frenchwoman who was a leader of the literary and political circles of the early 19th century.

Biography

Born in Lyon, France, and known as Juliette, she was married at fifteen to Jacques Récamier (d. 1830), a rich banker more than thirty years her senior. It is believed that he was in fact her natural father who married her to make her his heir.[1]

Beautiful, accomplished, and with a real love for literature, she possessed at the same time a temperament which protected her from scandal, and from the early days of the French Consulate to almost the end of the July Monarchy, her salon in Paris was one of the chief resorts of literary and political society that pretended to fashion. The habitués of her house included many former royalists, with others, such as General Bernadotte and General Moreau, more or less disaffected to the government. This circumstance, together with her refusal to act as lady-in-waiting to Empress consort Joséphine de Beauharnais and her friendship for Germaine de Staël, brought her under suspicion. In 1800 Jacques-Louis David began his portrait of her, but left it unfinished on learning François Gérard had been commissioned to paint a portrait before he had (shown right) - Gerard's was completed in 1802.

It was through Mme de Staël that Mme Récamier became acquainted with Benjamin Constant, whose singular political tergiversations during the last days of the Empire and the first of the Restoration have been attributed to her persuasions. Mme Récamier was eventually exiled from Paris by the orders of Napoleon I. After a short stay at her native Lyon, she proceeded to Rome, and finally to Naples. There Mme de Récamier was on exceedingly good terms with Joachim Murat and his wife Caroline Bonaparte, who were then intriguing with the Bourbons. She persuaded Constant to plead the claims of Murat in a memorandum addressed to the Congress of Vienna, and also induced him to take up a decided attitude in opposition to Napoleon during the Hundred Days.

Her husband had sustained heavy financial losses in 1805, and she visited Mme de Staël at Coppet in Switzerland. There was a project for her divorce, in order that she might marry Prince Augustus of Prussia, but, though her husband was willing, it was not arranged. In her later days she lost most of what was left of her fortune; but she continued to receive visitors in her apartment at L'Abbaye-aux-Bois[2][3], a 17h century convent (demolished in 1907) situated 16 rue de Sèvres in Paris, to which she retired in 1819. François-René de Chateaubriand was a constant visitor of her salon and, in a manner, master of the house. Even in old age, ill-health (she became almost blind) and reduced circumstances, Mme Récamier never lost her attraction. She seems to have been incapable of any serious attachment, and although she numbered among her admirers the duc de Montmorency, Lucien Bonaparte, Prince Augustus of Prussia, Pierre-Simon Ballanche, Jean-Jacques Ampère and Constant, none of them obtained over her so great an influence as did Chateaubriand, though she suffered much from his imperious temper. If she had any genuine affection, it seems to have been for the baron de Barante, whom she met at Coppet.

In 1859, Souvenirs et correspondances tirés des papiers de Madame Récamier was edited by Madame Lenormant. See Mme Lenormant's Madame Récamier, les amis de sa jeunesse et sa correspondance intime (1872); Mme Mohl, Madame Récamier, with a sketch of the history of society in France (1821 and 1862); also François Guizot in the Revue des deux mondes for December 1859 and February 1873; H Noel Williams, Madame Récamier, and her Friends (London, 1901); E Herriott (Engl. trans., by Alys Hallard), Madame Récamier et ses amis (1904) (elaborate and exhaustive).

Juliette Récamier died in 1849 of cholera at the age of 71 and was buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre in Montmartre, at the time a village north of Paris.

A type of sofa on which she liked to recline, the récamier, was named after her. [1]

See also

References

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