Charles Julien Saint Memin

(American born France, 1770 - 1852)

Born in Dijon, France, in 1770, Charles-Balthazar-Julien Fevret de Saint-Memin had intended to follow a military career until his parents' emigration during the French Revolution brought him to the United States in 1793. To help his parents financially, he became a painter. Starting with landscapes, he soon turned to more lucrative work in portraiture. Using a device called a physiognotrace; he would produce a life-size profile of the sitter in pencil on pink paper, and would then fill in the details with chalk. Next, he used a pantograph, an instrument of his own invention to reduce the image to a two-inch miniature on a copper engraving plate. For $33 the customer would receive the drawing, the copper plate, and twelve proofs. Together with his partner, Thomas Bluget de Valdenuit, Saint-Memin completed at least eight hundred of these portraits. He worked in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, and traveled all along the East Coast making portraits until his return to Dijon in 1810. Saint-Memin went back to New York in 1812, but in 1814 returned permanently to Dijon. There he served as the director of the local museum from 1817 until his death in 1852. His work is included in the collections of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the New-York Historical Society.