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Archive for the ‘de Launay’ Category


On 18 Dec 1819, Jules Pinson de Valpinçon, the 1st cousin and namesake of my great-grandfather Jules de Launay, married Adrienne Biennais at Église Saint Roch in Paris. Adrienne’s father, Martin Guillaume Biennais, created the 1804 crown jewels for Napoleon Bonaparte which are now on display at the Louvre.

Both of these Jules were 2nd cousins of the father of the French Impressionist artist, Gustave Caillebotte. In 1860, Gustave’s father, Martial Caillebotte, purchased property at Yerres for 134,000 francs plus about 9,000 in fees, from the Biennais Estate. This property is where Gustave did many of his paintings. So it was quite literally a sale between cousins.

Adrienne Adelaide Biennais – Madame Jules Valpincon. Grave is locate near the Caillebotte tomb in Pere Lachaise cemetery.

Source: http://www.MyFamilyJules.com.

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Written on my iPhone. Please forgive any errors.

We arrived in Paris from Nice, France after a 10-Hour drive to spend Thursday night with Valpinçon descendants. Departing Friday morning at 10am we stopped by Notre Dame to pick up copies of Valpinçon and Caillebotte family records which I had arranged to have ready and waiting for us.

Afterwards, we stopped by another church in the 1st Arrondissement where I had previously discovered Caillebotte and Féron baptism records. It was nearly noon on the day before Bastille Day, and the church was about to close, but I was able to find a very busy Veronique, the church secretary who had helped me before, who remembered me from my visit this past May, and was quite happy to help me again.

With Baptism dates in hand, we found finally found evidence of Veronique PINSON de VALPINÇON, the sister of Gabriel, Jacques, Anne (grandmother of Alfred Caillebotte), Victor, Augustin René (grandfather of Paul de Valpinçon who was the friend of Degas), Marie (my 2nd great-grandmother), Adelaide, and Jean Baptiste.

In a few hours the current owners of the Chateau Menil-Hubert will give us a private tour of the family chateau where Edgar Degas kept a studio. This chateau first purchased by Augustin Renè PINSON DE VALPINÇON on 31 Dec 1822 from Dame Marguerite Charlotte Fanny de LA PALLU for 315,560 francs. The current value is estimated around €10 million.

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It’s funny what you come across, when you aren’t even looking.  Yesterday, while visiting the Throne Room in the Palace of Prince Albert II, the reigning Sovereign Prince of Monaco (Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi), I happened to notice a painting of of his great-grandfather, Prince Albert I, hanging to the left of the throne.

1894 painting of Prince Albert I, by Léon Bonnat, shown to the left of the Palace throne.

The 1894 painting of Prince Albert I is by Léon Bonnat.  Bonnat was not only a teacher of my grandfather, Paul de Launay (a Valpinçon descendant through his paternal grandmother, Marie de Valpinçon)  while he was at the Luxembourg, but was a teacher of his cousin Gustave Caillebotte as well.  Paul de Valpinçon was a cousin of both Caillebotte and de Launay.  Paul de Valpinçon’s lifelong friend, Edgar Degas, was also a student of Bonnat.  Paul de Valpinçon and Gustave Caillebotte died in 1894, the same year as this painting.

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1848 – 1894, LA VALLÉE DE L’YERRES, Signed “G. Caillebotte”, and dated 77 (lowerᅠ right).  Pastel on paperᅠlaid down on board 22 7/8 by 28 1/2 in. 58.1 by 72.4 cm Executed in 1877.

The auction is to be held on May 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm in New York, and is estimated at $1 – 1.5 million.

Visit listing on Sotheby’s.

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Gaston de Launay (ca. 1904-1906), when he was a Canadian Husser

My grandfather, Paul de Launay, who was born in Paris on 19 Oct 1878, married his first wife, Florence Grace Hensley (born 12 Nov 1866), 12 years his elder in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Paul was 24 years old.  His new bride was 36, a “cougar” by modern standards.

One night last year, as I was boarding a flight to Paris, I met a woman with the same uncommon last name as the one I was researching – “Hensley”, that of my step-grandmother, and then sat on a plane next to a Frenchman who gave me info on how to research my grand uncle Gaston de Launay’s French military record, even volunteering to check on the existence of the records himself.

So, as I checked in at the gate that night, I happened to notice that the agent’s last name was “Hensley”, which was coincidental since I was presently researching that same name, so it happened to be very fresh on my mind.

Married to my grandfather, Paul de Launay, on 20 June 1903 at the Bruton Episcopal Church in Williamsburg, Virginia,  Florence Grace Hensley died suddenly on 3 Jan 1907 due to breast cancer.  My grandfather, for some reason, kept this marriage to her a secret as best he could, and would always refer to her, as “My dear Aunt Flo”.

My grandmother, born Mabel Ray Beasley, was Paul’s third wife, and never learn of Paul’s marriage to Flo until after Paul’s death in 1951.  It became her obsession, and later mine, to learn as much about her as possible, and why Paul grieved for Flo for so long.  Though we’ve found many answers, we still have not found a photo of her.  It doesn’t look good, but I will continue to hold out hope that one day we’ll get to see the face that Paul loved so many years ago.

Steam Ship Haverford

SS Haverford

On the 1901 English Census in the Saint Lawrence Parish of Jersey Channel Island, I had found Florence Grace Hensley living with her brother Philip.  On 19 Nov 1902, Florence boarded the SS (for Steam Ship) Haverford, then an American Line in Liverpool, with her 49 year old sister, Emily Marianne Hensley, their 10-year old nephew Charles E. Bishop, and another unknown boy, Lionel W. Roberts.  Emily answered ‘yes’ to having been in the United States before.  Florence’s answer is unreadable regarding this.  All four stated there destination was to their sister and brother-in-law, Alice Mary (Hensley) and husband Charles Edward Bishop in Sandybrook, Williamsburg, Virginia.  The Haverford arrived in Philadelphia on 1 December 1902.

Finding this and other definitive clues, we connected with the descendants of Flo’s sisters, and other English cousins in the U.K., so there’s a slight feeling of connection to her.  Paul de Launay painted a nude, red-haired woman facing away from the artist.  Although there is no proof, as yet, we think this may have been Paul’s Flo.  There are other unnamed female Hensley faces in a photo album that Paul kept until his death.  It’s possible that her’s in among them.

During my conversation with the gate agent, I had asked her if she knew if she had any English relatives several generations back.  She indicated she did, and that they had settled in the Virginia area.  This was the same area I was looking for other Hensley’s.  She told me that the name was rather uncommon here in the States.  So I took her email with a promise to follow up, and I’ll do the same on this story, as new information is discovered.

Until then, I will continue to look for the face of Florence Grace (nee Hensley) de Launay, my Late step-grandmother.

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I wrote a Post yesterday, explaining how Gustave Caillebotte and Edgar Degas really knew each other, on the Facebook page of the Degas House, Courtyard & Inn, and Edgar Degas Foundation of New Orleans, and so I thought that I should share it here.  Caillebotte and Degas met because of one man, Paul Valpinçon.  You see, Paul Valpinçon was Degas’ lifelong and dear friend, but he was also the cousin of Gustave Caillebotte, a fact which the families have not shared with the art world until now.  I’ve added a little further explanation along with appropriate photos or documents.

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Paul Valpinçon was born 29 Oct 1834 in Paris, though the family was originally from Normandy. The Degas painting “Madame Valpinçon” (1865) is of Paul’s wife Marguerite Claire (born Brinquant) Valpinçon. Edgar’s painting of their daughter, Hortense, is in the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. Hortense and her younger brother, Henri (also painted by Degas), both died without children.

My 2nd great grand-uncle (Paul Valpinçon’s grandfather) René Valpinçon, bought the Menil-Hubert Chateau in Normandy in 1822.  This chateau was where Degas (formerly “de Gas”, which is how he still spelled his name, as late as 1891) did many of his paintings, including those of some of my Valpinçon cousins.

1891 - Shows Degas registered as "de Gas"

Paul Valpinçon is a third cousin of Gustave Caillebotte, and through whom Degas met Gustave, as well as neo-classical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Ingres’ 1808 painting, “Valpinçon Bather” was named after Paul’s family, who owned it (a gift from Ingres) prior to it going to the Louvre in 1879, where it now resides.

Gustave Caillebotte  is a 3rd Cousins of my grandfather, Paul de Launay, while Paul Valpinçon. is a 2nd.  Paul de Launay was born 19 Oct 1878 in Paris and nearly adopted in 1892, along with his brother Gaston (1881-1836), by Gustave’s older brother Alfred (1834-1896), a Catholic priest, when the boys’ father, Professor Jules de Launay D.D., died on 24 March 1892 and left his wife and two boys destitute.  In addition to studying under Jean-Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant at Académie Julian, Paul de Launay studied under one Gustave’s teachers, Léon Bonnat, at Musée du Luxembourg.

1899 "Victor Hugo Mort, after Bonnat", by Paul de Launay,

Jules de Launay was a 1st cousin to the father of Paul Valpinçon and a 2nd cousin to the father of Gustave Caillebotte. Those fathers names were Louis Augustin Edouard de Valpinçon (born 1807) and Martial Caillebotte (1799-1874) respectively. Jules de Launay also had become a Catholic priest in 1834 and served at the Vatican under Pope Gregory XVI from 1834 until he left the priesthood in 1839. Jules, rather famous later during his life, immigrated to the U.S. in 1841, but later returned to Paris in December 1877 as the first American Protestant missionary to France.

Since both he and his father were born in Paris, my grandfather, Paul de Launay (1878-1951), came to the U.S. as both a Frenchman and the son of an American.  My great-grandfather Jules de Launay (1813-1892) was in New Orleans in the 1840′s. His first wife was Anna Eliza Goodale (b. about 1826), daughter of Nathan Goodale (1792-1872).

Degas remained a close friend of Paul Valpinçon’s daughter, Hortense, and her husband Jacques Fourchy, until Degas’ death.

In 1900, Degas, with Hortense and her husband, Jacques Fourchy at the Valpinçon chateau at Menil-Hubert, Normandy.

Although Paul Valinçon’s line stopped with his children, and Gustave Caillebotte never had any children, the descendants and cousins of these Valpinçon, Caillebotte, and de Launay families  still get together over 100 years later.

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From 6 Oct 2012 through 8 Jan 2012 in Québec City, my cousins have assisted in bringing the “Caillebotte Brothers Private World” Expo from Paris.  It includes 50 of Gustave’s paintings along with 150 private family photos by Martial. My family will be there the first week, for a mini-reunion of sorts.  We hope you can attend.

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