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 Louis de Chefdebien  (1754 - )

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Lived/Active: Maryland / France      Known for: miniature, landscape, portrait

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Hubert de Chefdebien, hdechefdebien@wanadoo.fr

He is interested in information about Louis in America and copies of his works or places where to find them.

Louis de Chefdebien (1754, after 1818)

Louis-Marie-Paul de Chefdebien was born on the 28th of March 1754. He was the second of ten children (7 boys, 3 girls). His family had moved 200 years before (around 1565) from the north of Poitou (south limits of Anjou and Touraine) and was installed since then in the area of Narbonne, in the south of France. (Narbonne, founded as Narbo Martius in 118 BC, has been the first capital of Roman Gaul).

A cadet at the artillery school of Metz in Lorraine, east of France, he became lieutenant. He left without authorization for America with the Marquis de Lafayette as volunteer ("gentilhomme volontaire") in the cavalry corps of General Nelson. He entered with the latest in Philadelphia when the British beat a retreat. Major of a national brigade in Virginia, he got feet and one leg frozen in 1793 (?) in front of the Black Mountains.

He is at Charlestown in November that same year, then in Jamaica where he stays 3 or 4 years. And in 1810, he leaves for North Carolina; he suffers a very strong hurricane at Cuba, before he reaches New Orleans. (Diary-letter of August 1814, with post-script dated of New Orleans, 18th of may 1815.)

In a letter to his father, dated of Baltimore on the 19th of September 1787, Louis passes judgement on the situation after Independence: "This country has always been from bad to worse since peace was made. Public services are in the hands of a few people who succeed each other; they are great landowners, lawyers, intriguers who, using of their influence, have always obtained the necessary votes for being elected member of the legislature, but, far from being engaged in the public good, it appears that they never had other aim than acting for their own interests or the one of their party.
The States are in the greatest distress and, in this time of crisis, the most eminent persons have been convoked in Philadelphia; the convention sits for some month now and nothing has yet transpired ! "

In another letter to his father and mother dated 20th of November 1787 and also from Baltimore, he launches out, he says, "into the useful and agreeable arts; I have up to now painted in miniatures which is too restricted and painstaking. I wish to acquire the necessary knowledge for painting on a grand scale but I am fully lacking the required books. For about one year, I have resumed violin; we perform amateurs' concerts "

To his eldest brother, the Marquis de Saint-Amans, he asks for books, "The treatise of anatomy" and "The art of painting" by Leonard de Vinci, "The treatise of bodies' proportions" of Albert Durer, "The treatise of passions" by Mr. Le Brun, "The treatise of practical perspective", "The treatise of painting" of Gerard de Lairesse, "Ovide's metamorphosis" of Durier; and also engravings, red chalks, above all good heads on a large scale. In fact of music, he would like to get quartets, trios and concertos, violin strings, bows, etc.

The last letter is dated January 1818 the 28th and was written to him by his younger brother Paul-Serge, mayor of Narbonne, to the following address (in French): "To Monsieur Louis de Chefdebien, staying at the last house of brick, tiled roof, at the end of Burgundy street, between Hospital street and Quarters street, 2nd door at right hand, New Orleans."

It seems that either the letter was not sent or the carrier could not find Louis since the letter was kept by the family in France.
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Sources are: "Les Anciennes Familles de France", 1933, "Notice Historique sur la Maison de Chefdebien-Zagarriga" by baron Odon de Chefdebien and other documents from Rene and Gilbert de Chefdebien and Marie Barbou des Courieres.

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