On this day in 1850, a baby was baptised at the church of Notre Dame de Lorette in Paris. The baby’s full name was Fernande Ernesta Jeanne Sabatier (she would be known just as Jeanne) and her mother was Adèle, better known as Bébé, the younger sister of the famous courtesan and muse of the poet Charles Baudelaire, Apollonie Sabatier.
In 1848, at the age of only 16, Bébé had become the mistress of the artist Fernand Boissard, a development which initially came about through Boissard’s need for consolation after his previous mistress had left him for a Danish diplomat. In April 1849 Bébé and Boissard moved into a house together near the rue Frochot, where her sister lived, and in December Bébé gave birth, at her sister’s house, to her daughter Jeanne. Boissard, contrary to the expectations of all their friends, refused to acknowledge the child as his, though at Ernest Meissonier’s insistence he did agree to make some financial provision for her. Apollonie and Meissonier acted as godparents at the baptism. Bébé spent the next two years still hoping to marry Boissard, who kept stringing her along despite the fact that he was already becoming involved with a young woman called Edwina Broutta. Edwina was the same age as Bébé but belonged to a different world. She came from a wealthy family and was a musician, both qualities which appealed to Fernand Boissard who proposed to her in February 1852. The future looked uncertain for Bébé, who for the next few years continued to live in the shadow of her elder sister.
More about the world of Parisian courtesans, including the Sabatier sisters, can be found in my book Grandes Horizontales.