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Alexis Judlin (1740–1808), miniaturist

7 August 2021

[Note, 9.viii.2021: There have been a number of alterations to this blog since posted on 7.viii.2021 – including to its title, since Judlin’s dates have since been discovered. Additions are integrated below.]

One of the features of my work on Maurice-Quentin de La Tour is the fully annotated documentation in which I (at least try to) provide short biographical details of all the people mentioned. When they are pastellists of course I simply refer to my dictionary (I’ve already researched them from primary sources wherever possible), but when they are not I try to ensure that the main reference sources agree before relying on them. And sometimes unpicking disagreements opens up a rabbit hole which I may not have the time or inclination to pursue myself, but where the elements I’ve uncovered are sufficiently suggestive that I wish others would (that’s particularly the case where hot topics such as international espionage or transgender celebrity arise – much better left to enthusiasts). The result is somewhere between a footnote in my La Tour monograph and a full essay or article in my dictionary…in other words, a blog post…

The starting point for these ruminations was a document I’ve recently added to you can find the full transcription at 10 janvier 1784. It’s one of those expert reports commissioned by the Châtelet to settle the frequent disputes between disappointed clients and portraitists – in this case a pastel by Jean-Gabriel Montjoye, the pupil of La Tour responsible, as you may remember, for the famous “self-portrait” in Amiens that, until my revelation in 2019, took everyone in as autograph (and continues to be reproduced as such by those who should read my research). This post isn’t about Montjoye, nor La Tour (who was clearly senile by this stage, and a bizarre choice for a forensic judgment), but the second expert appointed by the court to countersign the report, described as “André Alexis Judelin peintre de l’accademie de Londres demeurant a Paris rue dauphine hotel de Mouy.” The procès-verbal tells us nothing more about him other than that the inspection took place at La Tour’s studio in the Louvre rather than in Judlin’s; and his signature gives a more accurate spelling of his name:

Judlin’s forenames are inserted into the notary’s document in a different hand in a space left for them, but are completely clear as André Alexis. Moreover they are the two forenames (not always both together) found in all documents below.

Judlin is well known as a miniaturist: you will easily find some of his works which have appeared on the art market, and his name appears in most art reference books – but with puzzling contradictions if all you want is to find his dates. There is a consensus that his origins were in Haut-Rhin, one of the two départements in Alsace (not Germany, although a good deal of German is spoken; baptismal records are in Latin). Both Guebwiller and Thann have been suggested as his birthplace: records for the former are not online, but although a great many Judlins were born in the 1740s in Thann (as for example Schidlof has), none has the right combination of forenames and parents’ names. Lemoine-Bouchard relies on Edouard Sitzmann’s 1909 biographical dictionary repeating (uncredited) the “discovery” published in the Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux, 25.iii.1881, of the record of the birth of an André-Melchior Koessler in Guebwiller in 7.i.1742 from the marriage of an André Koessler with a Jeanne Judlin; it was explained that the miniaturist later adopted his mother’s name of Judlin as a pseudonym. The ICC contributor noted that he was a cousin of général Schérer. Sitzmann added that he died in Thann in 1800, which Lemoine-Bouchard found was incorrect. Instead she found a rather brief burial record for an André Judlin in Thann in 1795 which she adopted by a process of elimination, believing that he had probably died unmarried. Unfortunately the name Judlin or Jüdlin (and that of Koessler in its many variants) was extremely common, and this suggestion simply doesn’t match known facts about the miniaturist. There are literally dozens of André Judlins, but Alexis is very rare. No document suggests that the miniaturist was called Melchior.

The most important clue to the genealogy is the names of the artist’s parent provided by the Fonds Andriveau index cards for the two marriages discussed below: these make it clear that André-Alexis Jüdlin was the son of another André-Alexis Jüdlin and Jeanne Koessler (contrary to Sitzmann’s belief that Judlin was his mother’s name). The second piece of firm (usually fairly reliable) evidence is the entry for his admission to the Royal Academy schools on 22.x.1773, “aged 27”, which points to a year of birth of 1746. How he got to London is unclear, but we know he was there at least a year previously, as on 15.viii.1772 he married “Lucy de Vignoles” (recte Barbe-Lucie Vignoles) in St Marylebone:

We’ll come back to that document later, in particular the name of her father. He appears again in the baptism of their first child, Frances Henrietta Sophia, born 2.v.1773 but not baptised until 25.xi.1773, at the Roman Catholic Sardinian Chapel of St Anselm & St Cecilia in Lincoln’s Inn Fields:

Meanwhile Judlin exhibited in the Royal Academy in London 1773–76, the catalogue entries listed as follows in Graves:

Note that not all the items were miniatures, but I suspect we can assume they were in oil rather than pastel (or else I’d have to pursue all the loose ends in this post).

He was evidently in Paris by the time these lines appeared in the Journal de Paris (


The same author also provided verses to go under a bust of the chevalier d’Éon (v. infra) by Mme Falconnet. Adrien-Michel-Hyacinthe Blin de Sainmore was co-founder, in 1780, of the Société philanthropique, with Savalette de Lange, head of the masonic lodge to which La Tour belonged around this time. It seems very plausible that Judlin and La Tour met through this masonic route.

Judlin’s arrival in Paris is also documented in the two cartes de sûreté that were issued to him during the revolution. These, incorrectly transcribed and indexed, have been located since the first version of this post. They were issued on 4.x.1792 and 16.viii.1793 respectively, to Alexis Judlin, peintre, living respectively in rue Dauphin and the rue de Thionville (the two addresses that also appear in the salons livrets. They both agree as to his age – 52 in 1792, 53 in 1793, so that he must have been born between 5.x.1739 and 16.viii.1740. However the first carte gives his place of birth as Strasbourg, the second as Colmar: doubtless the artist felt that a village such as Guebwiller or Thann would have been too small to mention, but Mulhouse might have been nearer than Colmar as a substitute. Colmar parish records are not online, but provisionally Haut-Rhin 1740 seems the best inference. As to his arrival in Paris, the transcription of the first card has “depuis 1774” while the second has “depuis 14”, i.e. 14 years previously, or 1779. The first transcription s probably erroneous.

A letter of 15.vii.1780 from him to Benjamin Franklin concerns the miniature of the diplomat he was commissioned to make, probably after Duplessis. A miniature of Louis XVI (sold at Sotheby’s in 1989) in a lilac coat, signed and dated 1784, bears an ambitious inscription around the case, suggesting an English market (if not a later addition): “Judlin Painter to the Queen of France took the outline of this Picture in 1784 while the King was ailling in the Queen’s apartment in Versailles.”

In 1785 he exhibited two miniatures at the Salon de la Correspondance, one a portrait, the other, also a tête de femme, but “dans le genre historique”, both “d’un beau faire, d’un coloris vigoureux, & d’un grand style de dessin.” When the official salons became open, he exhibited another miniature tête de femme in 1791, and in 1793 a case with five miniatures, one a portrait, the other topical allegories of “La Liberté”, “L’Egalité”, “La République”, “Les Droits de l’Homme”. No doubt the third of these is the miniature that you can find on a specialist’s blog:


So let’s pursue his biography a little further. Brief references such as the engraver Wille’s journals (noting Judlin’s hospitable dinners) add little of substance, but genealogical records offer concrete facts (usually).

The transcriptions (Fichier Laborde) of the records of Saint-André-des-Arts made before the 1871 conflagration of all Paris registres paroissiaux provide a number of interesting events (you have to search all spelling variants): the baptism on 9.ii.1780 of a son, born rue Dauphine, with parrain Alexis’s brother Joseph “demeurant ordinairement à Vienne en Autriche”; two years later, another son with Lucie’s sister Marie-Anne-Gabrielle as marraine; in 1786, another son, with parrain a former cavalry officer, Nicolas-Roland Fouquet Dulomboy. That is of some interest because only six months previously Dulomboy had married the comédienne Marie-Élisabeth Joly, and Judlin had acted as joint guarantor on her purchase of jewellery from François-Félix Boyer. One can only guess who was the parrain at the birth of Alexis Dulomboy, 3.xii.1785, just weeks after his parents are thought to have been married (although Fabre d’Eglantine, in a complaint about his former mistress, alleged that the marriage was irregular); the boy grew up to be a painter.

The following year, a fourth son, with parrain Jean-Baptiste Schérer, avocat en parlement and intendant du maréchal de Richelieu; however he was also the brother of the future général Schérer to whom Sitzmann told us the miniaturist was related. On 10.iv.1789, Lucie died and was buried in the presence of Judlin and Francois-Xavier and Jean-Baptiste Vogt, both secrétaires-interprètes, whose mother was an Elisabeth Judlin, doubtless a close relation.

On Judlin remarried; his second wife was Lucie’s sister Marie-Gabrielle de Vignoles. So it’s clear that Judlin was particularly closely connected with this family, and we must revert to the question I parked much earlier. The Vignoles girls’ father signed the St Marylebone register in 1772 as “John Joseph de Vignoles”: that is enough to set us on a lengthy line of enquiry which I shall leave others to complete.

Google will take you directly to dozens of mentions of this mysterious figure who was associated with the chevalier d’Éon. The essence of these accounts is that Jean-Joseph de Vignoles (1721-1780), apparently a Fleming of French extraction probably from Antwerp, had been a Prémontré monk but had been forced to leave his monastery after his girlfriend (I assume the Barbe Borlé recorded as the girls’ mother) became pregnant; they married in Holland where Vignoles became a merchant; in this he was unsuccessful and soon made bankrupt. He moved on to London where he put “Esq” after his name and dabbled in various matters from publishing to politics and spying.

His dubious reputation emerges from an account in British government papers which is too long to cite in full, but may be found here: his “character and manner of life in England, where he had subsisted for several years without visible means of support, rendered him very suspected.” Further enquiries revealed that “he was a man of letters and intrigue…likely that he acted as a spy for the Court of Vienna, that he corrected D’Eon’s works for the press, and that a very close intimacy subsisted between them.” But not it seems above spying on d’Éon himself. His name was also connected with Beaumarchais, whose international activities have appeared previously in this blog.

Vignoles was also a prominent freemason, the British Grand Master for Foreign Lodges: in 1766 he founded the Lodge of Immortality, held at the Crown & Anchor in the Strand in London. He was grandmaster, but the membership list reveals a mix of French-speaking gentlemen, merchants, surgeons and clockmakers (Francis Hobler and Justin Vulliamy) and numerous accounts (I don’t know whether freemasonry or transvestite espionage attracts the larger cult) suggest that it was Vignoles who initiated d’Éon into the cult. For further details, see William Wonnacott’s lengthy article on Vignoles published in 1921.

This material tells little about other members of the family, although it provides an explanation as to why Judlin’s brother Joseph might have lived in Vienna. This is reinforced by the entry in the register for the Bavarian Chapel (Roman Catholic) in Warwick Street on 6.ix.1766 where Lucy was godmother at the baptism of her sister Teresia; the godfather was Karl Graf Cobenzl, the Austrian minister in Brussels (see collectors):

Teresia de Vignoles

Another source suggests that the d’Éon connection continued after his return to Paris in 1777, as he is said to have contacted his dress-maker Rose Bertin on behalf of one of the Vignoles girls who wanted to follow her fashion.

In any case we have enough material to understand the significance of the V&A’s miniature of d’Éon (inv. P.31-1929) which Judlin made in 1776. Engraved on the case “Mademoiselle / la Chevaliere D’Eon / Painted from the Life / in London 1776 / by Monr. Judelin”, the V&A online catalogue nevertheless questions the identity of the sitter. Because it shows d’Éon in a conventional male uniform, it isn’t as well known as the Stewart copy of the lost Mosnier portrait that the NPG acquired some years ago, but it deserves to be a little better known. Even the rather poor photograph at the top of this post no longer appears on the V&A’s website, where the work is said to have been executed in France, no information is offered about Judlin and the sitter’s identity is questioned. For the record, d’Éon wears the uniform of a lieutenant in the régiment du Colonel-Général des dragons, to which he was commissioned on 22.vii.1758.

As we started this post with La Tour, I’d better deal with the annoying entry J.46.175 I’ve been forced to include in my La Tour catalogue, a record of a hypothetical portrait of d’Éon by La Tour. This is most unlikely to have any connection with Maurice-Quentin La Tour, but derives from the enigmatic legend on a Haward mezzotint of 1788 indicating that it was based on a copy by Angelika Kauffmann after La Tour. The lettering on the print adds that the portrait was made in d’Eon’s 25th year (although d’Éon was not awarded the Saint-Louis until 1762), and that it was in the collection of George Keate. However this information may be entirely spurious, as the Haward engraving appears to copy a 1779 print by Bradel. It is also possible there may be a confusion with the Flemish history and portrait painter Jan Latour. But that is a different rabbit.

Postscript, 9.viii.2021: Our original quest has now yielded the final answer, located in the Tables de successions (DQ8). Judlin did not return to Alsace, but remained in Paris, rue Dauphine. “Alexis Judelin” [sic], now a mere journalier, died on 1.xii.1808, aged 68, in the hospice Beaujon; of the heirs, there was “aucun renseignement”.

Judlin 1.xii.1808 archives_FRAD075AF_DQ8_00316_00086


From → Art history

  1. permalink

    Dear Neil,

    Many thanks for this, which is a tour de force. I think that it sorts out one of your most elusive characters yet, pursuing him through a variety of countries, activities, connections, and marriages. Not only had I never heard of him, nor encountered the document that sparked your interest in him, but I did not even know that in France other painters were brought in to adjudicate on likenesses. I wonder what the other examples are. In Britain, portraits might be rejected on the grounds of lack of likeness, but were other artists ever brought in to decide on this ? It is hard to imagine that their judgment would have regarded as decisive in an English court of law.

    There’s one thing that I can’t get straight: is the miniature of the young woman attractively dressed in a grey and blue dress and hood indeed the actress Marie-Elisabeth Joly (1761 -1798) ? But, in which case, how can this apparently anonymous miniature have been the work of Alexis Dulomboy, who was only born in 1785, and why should it be? I think that I’ve probably been confused by the grammar of the sentence, and that I’ve just got its meaning wrong.

    Yours ever,


    Alastair Laing

    24 Aberdeen Road

    London N5 2UH

    Tel 02073595057

  2. Many thanks for reading this more attentively than I had – my last minute addition of a reference to Alexis Dulomboy’s future career destroyed the meaning of the following sentence: I intended of course (and tentatively, given the paucity of his later oeuvre) to attribute the miniature of Mme Dulomboy to Judlin, not his putative godson. I’ve made a small change in the online post accordingly.

    As to the legal disputes over portraits, I discuss this at some length towards the end of Chap XI of my Prolegomena. Wildenstein 1921 is an excellent source for the AN documents. La Tour himself was involved in several other cases, notably re Marteau’s estate, 4.IV.1757; Renou, 13.VIII.1774, acting with Greuze; and Viel, 26.XI.1783, acting with the pastellist Jean Valade: the dates will take you to the transcripts in my La Tour documentation. Unfortunately the reports invariably write up the steps in the process in tedious detail, and say nothing about the pictures beyond “ressemblant” (or not) and worth the sum demanded, or adjusted. Aesthetic merit seems not to figure, and was probably legally irrelevant…

  3. Alastair Laing permalink

    Thanks for the revised piece, with the clarification. If my brain hadn’t been so foggy that day, I could have worked out what you meant.

  4. Alastair Laing permalink

    Further to your reply, I’ve been right through your Prolegomena but couldn’t find the discussion that you mention; all that I did find was the footnote referring to Georges Wildenstein’s publication. Is it possible to get that online ? As all too often with Gallica, I got a response indicating a plethora of items – 90 or so (too many to plough through, and those that I did see were just citations of it).

  5. Apologies: the Prolegomena online had got out of synch with my file copy. Updated now; the discussion is on p.113 of this edition, but simply lists the cases I mentioned in my previous comment.

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