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I have actually got as far as a surname with this one: Tussa. But, if possible, I would like to get a forename and a date of birth to go with it.


Félix Trutat painted his famous Nude Girl on a Panther Skin in 1844, when he was just twenty. (An image of the painting is on his Wikipedia page. I will not post it here in full because, obviously, it involves nudity.) But who is that girl?

Detail of Trutat's Painting

Madeleine Levinger published a monograph on the artist in 1932, in which I found the following passage:

Why was the original pension not renewed? Because, some claim, Trutat was joined in Paris by a model with whom he lived. This model would be none other than Mademoiselle Tussa or Tussat, daughter of the Dijon amateur bookseller whose loose morals caused a lot of talk in Dijon around 1850. The young girl, very beautiful, posed at the Beaux-Arts in the city. We thought we could identify this person in the reclining female figure of the Bacchante [another name for the painting in question] which was certainly painted in Paris, and we forged this little novel. Monsieur Clément-Janin, in Les Celebrités de la rue à Dijon tells us that he no longer has any doubts about the identity of La Femme nue [yet another name for the painting in question], and he tells us that Mademoiselle Tussa left her family around her twentieth birthday, to go to America where she never heard from her. Legend and also a family tradition claim that it was she who posed for Trutat's great composition. Nothing prevents us from assuming that, passing through Paris on her way to the United States, this young girl gave the painter a few posing sessions.

(The above is translated from the French, by Google translate, with a couple of light amendments from me. You can read the original here.)

There is a volume called Les imprimeurs et les libraires dans la Côte-d'Or, which indeed mentions a Dijonnais bookseller named Nicolas Tussa, born 24 Jul 1776, died 19 Jan 1852, the son of Esprit-Joseph Tussa. But it does not say anything about a daughter - or a son or a wife, for that matter.

If this Nicolas Tussa did have a daughter, and if she emigrated to the United States, I imagine there must be some official record of her birth, her death, her arrival in America, perhaps even a marriage? But I do not know where to start looking for such records; I very much hope that someone else does.

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  • 1
    It seems you and the author of your quote have a direct contradiction over the content to be found in Les Celebrités de la rue à Dijon. I would recommend re-examining that work, as the quote directly attributes information there that you did not find. (Perhaps a difference in versions, or the above author (Levinger) is relaying information they had directly from the source (Clement-Janin) that was not placed in the printed work?) If you have a link to an online readable source for Celebrités... you could edit that into your question.
    – justCal
    Jul 1, 2023 at 23:31
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    Is that not a leopard skin?
    – FlaStorm32
    Jul 2, 2023 at 0:31
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    @FlaStorm32 Yes, I think it is a leopard skin, and I had the same thought. But it seems to be known mostly by that name, so calling it something else would just add to the confusion. (I think it may be panther in the sense of being a member of the Panthera genus, which includes leopards, jaguars, etc. But let's not get into that!) Jul 2, 2023 at 6:58
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    That explains it. No, I haven't found an accessible copy of Celebrités either; I was just speculating over the discrepancy between what you had found and what was mentioned in the citation. I looked at archive.org for Clement-Janin , and Tussa is mentioned in Les hotelleries Dijonnaises, but I don't see anything directly related so far.
    – justCal
    Jul 2, 2023 at 10:10
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    There seems to have been a bookseller by the name of Tussat in Dijon (my bolding): "Rue des Forges, là où la poste a été installée jusqu'en 1893, le libraire Tussat, un original, avait sa boutique remplie de beaux livres qu'il montrait peu et vendait encore moins." Referring to about 1830: "Plusieurs jeunes professeurs de Plombières ne furent pas les derniers à venir fouiller dans le monceau que cataloguait M Tussat libraire émérite vendeur subtile et spirituellement narquois." Earliest reference to Tussat I can find is dated 1814, latest 1830.
    – njuffa
    Jul 4, 2023 at 6:10

1 Answer 1

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+250

I have found a source which details the names of the family members of Nicholas Tussa. There are a couple of options, but I believe the information may indicate that your mystery model's name may have been Anna. (see update)

Searching further within the same repository which holds your Levinger monograph on Trutat, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, I find a legal notice published in the Journal de la Côte-d'Or on 24 march 1846 which concerns the Nicolas Tussa family from Dijon. The first paragraph of note mentions three minor children and the name of the wife, deceased by that date:

2° A M. Pierre Russet, ancien officier, demeurant à Dijon, en qualité de subrogé tuteur de Charlotte-Joséphine Tussa, Jean-Baptiste-Charles-Louis Tussa et Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Gustave Tussa, tous trois enfans mineurs issus du mariage de M. Nicolas Tussa, ancien libraire, demeurant à Dijon, avec dame Françoise Lambelin, son épouse, décédée;

Translation (emphasis mine):

2° To Mr. Pierre Russet, former officer, residing in Dijon, as subrogate tutor of Charlotte-Joséphine Tussa, Jean-Baptiste-Charles-Louis Tussa and Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Gustave Tussa, all three minors being children of the marriage of Mr. Nicolas Tussa, former bookseller, residing in Dijon, and Mrs. Françoise Lambelin, his wife, deceased;

So here you get the name of the wife and three children who are minors. The next several items list some adult Tussas; item 5 is of particular interest:

3° A M. Charles-Jean-Baptiste Tussa, majeur, domicilié à Dijon;
4° A Mlle. Marie-Louise Tussa, célibataire, majeure, demeurant à Dijon;
5° Et à Mlle. Anna-Françoise Tussa, demeurant à Paris, rue Hauteville, n° 89,

3° To Mr. Charles-Jean-Baptiste Tussa, adult, with a house in Dijon;
4° To Mlle. Marie-Louise Tussa, unmarried, adult, residing in Dijon;
5° And to Mlle. Anna-Françoise Tussa, residing in Paris, rue Hauteville, n° 89.

So we have an Anna-Françoise Tussa, living in Paris in 1846, within 2 years of the time of the painting. I believe this may be your model.

UPDATE

A general search of the parents names on the web brings up a genealogical page which has more information which draws a different conclusion. This page lists a daughter Louise Josephine as the likely candidate, with that individual dying on Martinique in 1850. (Unsourced genealogical material is often something I consider a hint when doing research; It can be valuable, but it has no real weight as proof until sources are found which confirm it)

Certain aspects of this match the information from the OPs original citation, and some doesn't fit the information from the source I cite above. Perhaps the Louise Josephine Tussa is actually the person listed as Marie Louise in the above source, but she was listed as living in Dijon at the time of the article, so we have no way of placing her with the painter in Paris. Dying in 1850 in Martinique however would match the loosing contact aspect after emigrating to America(the Carribean in this case).

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  • So you're going with Anna-Françoise, rather than either of the other daughters, because she was recorded as living in Paris? That checks out. I will be awarding you the bounty, one way or another, in the fullness of time, but, if you could find a date of birth - even an approximate date birth based on, say, the date of her parents marriage, since Anna-Françoise seems to be the oldest child - that would make this answer even better. Jul 3, 2023 at 14:25
  • Okay. I think I've found something interesting. Take a look at this page, which gives the children of Nicolas Tussa and his wife, along with their dates of birth, dates of death, marriages and descendants. It looks like Louise Josephine Tussa is actually the more likely model; she died in Martinique in 1850. Remember how the monograph says she emigrated around 1850, and was never heard from again? But I'd be interested to hear what you think. Jul 3, 2023 at 16:55
  • I was just looking at that page. Unsourced genelogical info can either be a goldmine, or just stuff picked up from the web. The page does link the same Trutat entry in its person notes however...
    – justCal
    Jul 3, 2023 at 17:02
  • This extract seems to corroborate at least some of the story. It seems that Louise Tussat gave birth to an illegitimate daughter in Martinique, and died three weeks later. Forgive me if this sounds chauvinistic, but that does seem in keeping with the sort of personality traits which would lead to allowing oneself to be painted nude in Paris in the 1840s. Jul 3, 2023 at 17:13

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