French Family Chronology: The 19th Century

Figure 1.--This portrait was taken by the Bertrand studio in France. The portrait is undated, but looks like the late-1860s to us. The boy wears a suit and vest with military styling with ankle length bloomer knickers and white socks. Note is longish hair down tgo his ears. We are not sure if his younger sibling is a boy or girl, but suspect the child is a boy. Note the hair styled like his older brother. He wears a belted dress with a wide skirt. We are not sure just how to describe the dress. He also has pantalettes and we think white stockings.

Family images are wondefful ways of assessing fashion trends because they show prople of different ages and genders. This is particulasrly important because France was such an important country in setting fashion trends during the 19th century. This was particiularly true of women's fashions, but the French also influenced children's fashions. We have only a few images of French families in the 19th century and can not yet make any real assessment. Our French 19th century archive is still very limited, but we have a few family images from the second half of the 19th century. We are gradually expanding our archive of 19th century French imasges, but it will be some time before we have an adedquate family section. This section provides a useful way of comparing French fashion to those in different countries chronologically.

The 1800s

Throughout the early-19th century, we are still dependented on painted portrits for family images. This means that not only is the number of images limited, but for th most part we only see wealthy or at least well-to-do families.

The 1820s

Froment family (1825)

This French family portrait was painted by an unknown French arist, a competent but hardly not brilliant artist even though the Baron was reptedly rich. Gabriel de Froment, Baron de Castille, was reportedly born in a modest house in Uzès (1747). Uzès is a commune in the Gard department of southern France with a history dating back to the Galic (Celtic)-Roman times. It is located about 25 km north-northeast of Nîmes. His parents were Gabriël Joseph de Froment Baron van Castille en Argilliers (????-1773) and Maria Constance van la Vergne de Tressan. The Baron's family was of the minor French nobility, albeit with a long history. Thgey did not have a family fortune or important family connections. The Baron was, however, enormously succeesful in life, although we do not have the details of his sucess. He managed to navigate the French Revolutionn (1789), a very dangerous time for aristocrats. He seems to have prospred during the Napoleonic era (1800-15) as well as the Bourbon Restoration (1814- . He married the Princess Hermine Aline Dorothée de Rohan (1785-1843) 38 years his junior during the Napoleonic era (1809). Rohan is a commune in the Morbihan department in Brittany in north-western France. home to the House of Rohan. Family members included viscounts, dukes and princes who had a prominent role in French history. By the time this portrait was painted (1825), the Baron was 80 years old and lived in fairy-tale like castle. Some of their children included: Marie Louise Taldérie Thérèse Meriadec de Froment (1811), Gabriel-Joseph de Froment-Fromentes, baron de Castille (1818), and Charlotte Louise Constance de Froment de Castille. The children were mostly girls. They wear empire dresses with baloon sleeves. The boy wears a classic skeleton suit with frilly collar. We thought that the fashions, especoally his knee breeches suggested a somewhat early time, but give his aristocratic position perhaps the clothing was somewhat conservative. The Baron died a year after the portrait was painted.

The 1840s

Louis Daguerre patented the first sucessdful photographic process--th Daguerreotype (1839). Unfortunatley we have very few French Dags from the 1940s--in sharp contrast to Americ. Not only do we have few Frenchbimages, but the Dag process did not lend itelf to family portraits. Most Dags wersingle portrits or in some cases two individuals, rarly more. As a result despite the developmnt of photigraphy, we do not t hv many French family portait in the 1840s.

The 1850s

Thanks to photography we have an increasing number of family images, far more than were ever possible when impages were produced by artists. E A quality painted portrait could take weeks or even longer to produce and were very expensive. Thus the Daguerreitypes and Ambrotypes provide us a number of wonderful family images. Even so the actul number is still quite limited. Unfortunately unless the portrait is dated, it is very difficukt to differentiate the 1840s from the 1850s portraits.

Affluent French Family (1851)

Here we have a French family scenr from 1851. It is a posed scene, but represents what might be seen in an affluent family in the 1850s. The children are beiung educated at home rather than going to school. This is because the children are mostly girls and the family is affluent. The image depicts a geography lesson. Presumasbly the man is the tutor rather than the father. This is an early stereoscopic daguerreotype by A Claudet. Unfortunately we do not know who the children are. They may even be his own children.

Le Bon Family (1850s)

Here we se the three children of the Le Bon family, Claire, Marie and Louise. We see them in two rare Daugerreotypes taken outside. I'm not sure how to date the images, but would guess the early 1850s although the late 40s is possible. Two of the girls have short hair. The girls all have rather plain outfits. Had they not been mentioned I might have thought that Claire was a boy. Come to think of it, Claire in America was sometines used as a boy's name. I'm not sure how the name was used in France. Claire lseems to be wearing a plaid dress. Claire's hair in one of the portraits has a side part.

The 1860s

Thanks to the new albumen photographic process anbd the reulting CDV, we begin for the first time to seeclrge numbers of family images in France and othger European countries and North nerica as well. CDVs were made in far greater numbers thn the ealy photograohic pricesses like Daguerreotyopes and Ambrotypes.

Pésardin Children (1863)

These French children had their CDV portrait taken in Metz, France during 1863. We see two little girls and their brother. The names are something like Louis, Maurice, and Lucie Pésardin. We at first thouht the name might be Réazatin. The handwriting is a little difficult to read. Louis and Maurice are boys. Lucie is a girl. Lucie wears a fashionable dresses with a cape-like top and plain panalettes. Unfortunately we do not know what colors the dress was. Maurice wears a plainer dress, but notice his side-parted hair. A French reader writes, "In 1863 when this portrait was taken, little boys less than 3 years old wore dresses and had their hair styled like little girls. The gender colors convention still hadn't been introduced. Boys might be destinguished by their toys and Christian name. Often these children could not be distinguish by gender. During the French Restoration (1815-50) even older boys up to about age 6 might wear dresses like the girl. Louis wears a light-colored knee pants suit, but it is difficult to make out the details. He holds a flat top hat by the chin strap. All the children wear white long stockings.

Montbeliard family (1860s)

Here we see the four children of an unidentified Montbeliard family in the 1860s. There are four children, two boys and two girls. They blook about 2-11 years old. The girls wear dresses and the two boys wear suits. The CDV portrait was taken in Montbeliard, France. The boy holds a boater with a slightly brounded crown.

Unidentified Paris siblings (late-1860s)

This portrait was taken by the Bertrand studio in France (figure 1). The portrait is undated, but looks like the late-1860s to us. The boy wears a suit and vest with military styling with ankle length bloomer knickers and white socks. Note is longish hair down tgo his ears. We are not sure if his younger sibling is a boy or girl, but suspect the child is a boy. Note the hair styled like his older brother. He wears a belted dress with a wide skirt. We are not sure just how to describe the dress. He also has pantalettes and we think white stockings.

Caplain family (1860s-70s)

We have several CDV portraits from the Caplain family. While we do not have any portraits of the Caplain family, we do have several individual or brother portraits of the several boys in the family during the 1860s-70s. Their mother clearly liked to dress their sons in identical outfits. We note Edouard Caplain wearing a single-breastred suit in the 1860s. We note the Caplain brothers Henry and Jules (1860s). They wear matching tunics with wide knee pants somewhat similar to pantalettes and white long stockings. Another portrait shows Frédéric and P????? (1860s or early-70s). The boys wear identical velvet knee pants suits with white long stockings. Given the ages of the boys, it is possible tht the various boys in the different CDVs were cousins rather than brothers. The portrairs were taken at the A. vuillemot stidio on th Rue de Passy in Paris, so presumably the boys were from Paris. Given the way they were dresses, the Caplain familky seems to have been a very well-to-do family, but unfortunately we know nothing about the family.

The 1870s

De Lesseps Family (1870s)

The Vicomte de Lesseps was one of the most famous Frenchman of the mid-19th Century because of his role in building the Suez Canal. He was not an engineer, but a great promoter. Even the failure of his Panama project and resulting financial crisis in his old age did not totally eclipse his great success at Suez. I am not sure how he was dressed as a boy, but the clothes wore by his prodigious family provide a glimpse of French boyhood fashions in the late 19th Century.

The 1880s

Marsilles Family

All we know about the family on this cabinet card is that they lived in Marsille. We only get to see the children. There are seven of them, two boys and five girls. They are about 3-16 years of age. Unfortunately we do not get to see the parents. The children are all smartly dressed. The boys wear matching sailor suits with wide white collars and anchor dickies. Their suits are done with kneepanrs and like the girls have long stockings. The girls wear differently styled dresses. The portrait is not dated. We estimate the date to the 1880s, but bare not entirely sure about that. The mount style could well be from the 1870s. The bustle the girl at the right wears causes us to date the portrait to the 1880s. (Bustles were also worn in the 1870s, but other aspects if the clothing such as the boys' sailor suits, are less consistent with the 1870s.) The boys have short hair. The girls have long hair done in different ways.

The 1890s

Ferry de la Bellonne Family (1890)

Here we see a portrait of the Ferry de la Bellonne family in 1890. The family appears to be affluebt. They lived in Bagnols sur Cèze, Gard. It was a glass negative, meaning that the family either hired a professional photographer or the family or a family friend had developed photographic skills. Photogrphy was still a rather complicated process at the time which is why most images are still studio portraits. The boys' light outfits make it difficult to make out details. One boy wears a standard sailor suit. Both boys wear knickers with long stockings. The knickers were very common in France at the time. The boys look to be about 5-7 years of age. Unlike the adults, they do not have hats.


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Last updated: 3:02 PM 11/5/2019