DELEZENNE, IGNACE-FRANÇOIS, silversmith, merchant, and seigneur; baptized 30 April 1718 in the parish of Sainte-Catherine in Lille, France, son of Martin Delezenne and Marie-Christine Jacquemart; buried 1 May 1790 at Baie-du-Febvre (Baieville, Que.).
Ignace-François Delezenne probably learned his craft in his home town. He sailed for New France around 1740 with his partner Charles Barthe. The two silversmiths first set up in business in Quebec but could not meet the competition from the numerous local artisans. Barthe appears some ten years later at Detroit. Delezenne went to Montreal, where the only silversmiths were Jacques Gadois*, dit Mauger, and Roland Paradis*. He was living there on Rue Saint-François by the summer of 1743, and he started in business under the aegis of the influential Gadois, who introduced him to Montreal society. Delezenne made many utensils, even working in copper, and he probably also made silver articles for the fur trade. But his career only really got under way when he received his first orders for church silver.
Prosperity came soon after his marriage on 8 Jan. 1748 to Marie-Catherine Janson, dit Lapalme, niece of architect Dominique Janson*, dit Lapalme. The following summer Delezenne bought a large piece of silver, weighing 27 marks 2 ounces and valued at 1,553 livres 5 sols, from the estate of merchant Pierre Guy*. This purchase, for which Gadois and Dominique Janson went surety, freed Delezenne from one of the major constraints hampering silversmiths of the period, the scarcity of material; it enabled him to make, among other things, a monstrance and some ampullae for holy oil – which have since disappeared – for the church of Saint-Charles-de-Lachenaie.
Delezenne’s shop on Rue Saint-Jacques received enough orders for him to engage one Dominique-François Mentor, a black emancipated slave, as an apprentice in 1749. About the same time he changed his first stamp, a rather simple one (an open crown, I, a period, F,D), for a more elaborate one (a closed crown, IF, D). Between 1748 and 1752 he created a piece that is one of the masterpieces of Quebec silverwork, the superb chalice with highly original decorative motifs that belongs to the Religious Hospitallers of St Joseph in Montreal.
A property on Rue Notre-Dame, across from the Recollets, became the cause of a quarrel between Delezenne and Dominique Janson after the death in June 1748 of its owner, Michel-Étienne Couturier, dit Le Bourguignon, an uncle of Marie-Catherine Janson on her mother’s side. Delezenne finally bought it from Janson for 5,000 livres. Having decided to set up business in Quebec, he sold it on 9 July 1752 to surgeon Claude Benoist for 9,000 livres. Just before his departure a dispute with his apprentice Mentor brought him before the royal jurisdiction of Montreal. Mentor followed him to Quebec, however, and in 1756 signed a contract to work as a journeyman for two years, with the option of a third year. Mentor had probably sued because his master was devoting more time to real estate than to his craft. A skilful administrator, Delezenne through these transactions acquired money for ambitious works in silver which he could not otherwise have undertaken. At this time also, the market for silversmiths’ products in Quebec was favourable: only two of the ten silversmiths in business in 1740 were still there. It was in these circumstances that Delezenne set himself up as a merchant on Rue de la Montagne in Quebec, in November 1752; he quickly acquired a degree of renown.
In January 1755, for 4,923 livres, he obtained at auction a property on Rue Saint-Joseph (Rue Garneau) from the estate of Marie-Madeleine Sasseville. The terms of the award of this fief included the right to levy cens et rentes on various persons, and Delezenne became a seigneur. In 1755 and 1756 a succession of lawsuits brought the new owner into conflict with his neighbours and showed him to be grasping, vindictive, and stubborn. Only two of his neighbours stood up to him, notary Simon Sanguinet Sr, and Dominique Janson, dit Lapalme, who had been living in Quebec since 1751. Three others sold their properties, one to Delezenne, because they could not assume the expenses occasioned by the court actions and by the construction of dividing walls.
With the aid of his connections and his commercial dealings, Delezenne soon set up an enterprise that was new for the colony: the manufacture on a large scale of trade silver. Through his friendship with Christophe Pélissier, a king’s scrivener, and with Jacques Imbert*, the agent of the treasurers general of the Marine, he was able to obtain Intendant Bigot’s favour and became his appointed silversmith. Bigot had Delezenne melt down treasury écus, including the 15,000 livres found at Chouaguen (Oswego). From 1756 to 1759 Delezenne ran a veritable small industry manufacturing trade silver and hence neglected the production of church and table silver. A single agreement, signed in 1758, stipulated that Jean Robaille and four workmen were to utilize l,000 marks of silver for manufacturing ornaments and trinkets for the fur trade; this silver would have been worth at least 57,000 livres, over five times the value of Delezenne’s house and workshop on Rue de la Montagne. Several silversmiths – Dominique-François Mentor, Étienne Marchand, and Jean Robaille and his apprentice Claude-Marie-François Morin – worked with Delezenne. In much the same way as Gadois had assisted him some years earlier, Delezenne assisted Louis-Alexandre Picard, who supervised the work of Amable Maillou, Jean-François Risbé, and Charles Diverny, dit Saint-Germain. But the siege of Quebec in the summer of 1759 put an abrupt stop to their work. Not only was his house on Rue de la Montagne demolished, but Delezenne saw part of his profits, 15,756 livres in paper money, destroyed. However the Delezenne family had moved to Rue Saint-Joseph the previous summer, and so was unharmed.
With the change in allegiance Delezenne adopted a new stamp (a crown, DZ) that was more in keeping with the British tradition. Whether or not this adaptation was a clever commercial device to win the conqueror’s sympathies, more than half of his extant work bears this stamp. Most of these pieces were made between 1764 and 1775 and mark the peak of his production, which was divided equally between silver articles for the fur trade and church and table silver. It seems that during this period Delezenne worked with a conscientious apprentice with a splendid future, François Ranvoyzé*. Ranvoyzé’s early works closely followed forms and decorative motifs inherited from Delezenne. Indeed, at the time of Ranvoyzé’s marriage in 1771 Delezenne was described as “his friend who is a father to him.” It would, however, be risky to claim, as some writers have, that François Ranvoyzé trained Delezenne’s son as a silversmith, even though their names followed one another in the “Rôle général de la milice canadienne de Québec . . . ,” drawn up in the autumn of 1775. A plausible explanation is that Joseph-Christophe Delezenne* worked with his father, who lived near Ranvoyzé, and hence their names appear together on the roll. Joseph-Christophe Delezenne’s career as a silversmith was, moreover, limited to his apprenticeship. Joining the American ranks early in 1776, he accompanied the invading army when it withdrew from the province of Quebec and he settled in the United States. In 1788 he served as engineer and captain at West Point, New York. When he returned to Lower Canada in 1807 he was accused of treason.
Ignace-François Delezenne’s life changed after his daughter Marie-Catherine*’s marriage on 8 March 1775 to Christophe Pélissier, the director of the Saint-Maurice ironworks. It was a financial transaction as much as a marriage: for an exorbitant price, the silversmith “sold” his daughter, who had promised her hand to Pierre Fabre*, dit Laterrière, to his longtime friend. Delezenne went to live at the ironworks at the end of 1775, and there he and Pélissier collaborated with the Americans. Circumstances led Pélissier to go into exile in France. Various documents confirm that between the time of Pélissier’s departure and return to Canada for a visit in the summer of 1778, Delezenne directed the Saint-Maurice ironworks, while Laterrière ran the operation. Indeed, when the lease for the ironworks was made over to Alexandre Dumas* in February 1778, it was Delezenne who carried out the transaction. Shortly afterwards he moved to Trois-Rivières, acquiring several pieces of property there in April; Laterrière went to live at Bécancour with Marie-Catherine. Before returning to France in the autumn of 1778 Pélissier, who could not resign himself to losing his wife to Laterrière, hatched an intricate plot against him which Delezenne organized. At the instance of Bishop Briand, who had already excommunicated the notorious lovers, and of Haldimand, Laterrière was imprisoned after a hasty trial on the basis of false witness by Delezenne’s son Michel, who accused him of having collaborated with the Americans. Haldimand refused him any form of recourse; he thus satisfied his friend Pélissier’s demands by separating the lovers, and he made Laterrière an example of official repression, even though Laterrière claimed to be a staunch royalist. After many vicissitudes Laterrière and Marie-Catherine finally took up residence at Gentilly in October 1783.
At this period Delezenne was still active as a silversmith, working particularly for the fur trade and training John Oakes*. The Saint-Cuthbert chalice and case for holy oils (Birks collection) can be attributed to the period 1783–84. They greatly influenced Oakes, who passed the models on to Michael Arnoldi*, Robert Cruickshank*, and Charles Duval* soon after his master’s death. In the autumn of 1784 Delezenne disposed of his properties in Trois-Rivières at a profit and bought a farm at Baie-du-Febvre. From these deals he acquired 2,000 livres in cash. Land speculation had always been profitable for him, as is illustrated by the sale of his property in Montreal in 1752; similar transactions at Quebec in 1779 involved the sum of 25,000 livres.
After his wife’s death in November 1787, Delezenne was reconciled with his daughter and Laterrière, who came to live with him until his death in 1790. As there was no inventory after his death it is impossible to appraise his financial and professional situation, but he had probably lived comfortably during the last six years of his life. He had enjoyed good health and seems to have been active until his death producing trade silver, which explains why he set up business near the fur-trading post among the Abenakis at Saint-François. Later a number of silversmiths in the region from Trois-Rivières to Lake Champlain adopted this plan of setting themselves up in business near the Indian trading posts: the list included John Oakes, Michael Arnoldi and his brother Johann Peter, Michel Roy, Dominique Rousseau*, Henry Polonceau, Charles Duval, Jean-Baptiste Decaraffe, and Jean-Baptiste-François-Xavier Dupéré, dit Champlain.
In addition to being the first silversmith in Trois-Rivières and the master of the famous François Ranvoyzé, Ignace-François Delezenne may be considered the father of the manufacture of trade silver in Canada, which was indeed his major professional concern. He was successful in developing a market for such goods, a market which, because of the prominent role of furs in the economy, became important itself. He made the creation of trade silver an activity of the colony and gave the product a significance it had not had when its manufacture was the prerogative of the mother country. To tokens and medals were added more elaborate ornaments; silversmith Picard perfected new tools; production on a nearly industrial scale, by numerous apprentices or journeymen, replaced small-scale or part-time operations by artisans; and trade silver became more important than church silver in the economy.
Only a few religious articles by Delezenne remain, but the quality of their execution, and the vigour and finesse of their style show that he was an absolute master of his art. These works are almost all masterpieces of their kind, as numerous imitations have subsequently attested. If only a score of Ranvoyzé’s or Laurent Amiot*’s religious works had survived the wear and tear of time, it is not certain that they would have reflected glory upon their creators to the same degree. As for table silver, Delezenne left a few specimens in Quebec of a kind not made by any other silversmith – for example, the flat candlestick and the chafing dish at the Séminaire de Québec and the wedding cup in the Musée du Québec.
Delezenne was unusual in that he began a career as a silversmith at the height of the French régime and he was able to continue it after the conquest with merit and honour, exerting a great influence on others. He was the leader in his field for more than 20 years, and his activity illustrates the evolution of the silversmith’s art in a transitional period. His role as Bigot’s appointed silversmith and his share in the transfer of the lease of the Saint-Maurice ironworks and in the conspiracy against Laterrière give to his career an interest beyond his profession.
[Ignace-François Delezenne’s works can be seen in Quebec in the Musée du Québec, the museum of the Séminaire de Québec, the archbishop’s palace, the Hôpital Général, the Hôtel-Dieu, and the private collection of Gérard Morisset*. Other works are held in Montreal in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Hôtel-Dieu, the church of Notre-Dame, and the convent of the sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame; in Toronto in the Henry Birks collection and the J. E. Langdon collection; and at the Musée d’Odanak (Que.) and the churches of Notre-Dame-de-Foy at Sainte-Foy, Sainte- Marguerite-de-Blairfindie at L’Acadie, Saint-François-Xavier at Caughnawaga, and Saint-Michel at Vaudreuil.
It is impossible to list here all the exhibition catalogues, books, and articles in which Ignace-François Delezenne’s name appears; Robert Derome’s work Les orfèvres de N.-F. and his article “Delezenne, le maître de Ranvoyzé” in Vie des Arts (Montréal), XXI (1975–76), no.83, 56–58, can be consulted. There is a descriptive catalogue of Delezenne’s work and a more detailed biography of the silversmith in Robert Derome, “Delezenne, les orfèvres, l’orfèvrerie, 1740–1790” (thèse de ma, université de Montréal, 1974). There are illustrations of some of Delezenne’s works in J. Trudel, L’orfèvrerie en N.-F. r.d.]
AAQ, 20 A, I, 181. AD, Nord (Lille), État civil, Sainte-Catherine, 30 avril 1718. ANQ-M, Doc. jud., Registres des audiences pour la juridiction de Montréal, 24, 25, 26, 27; État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 8 janv. 1748, 9 mars 1749, 16 févr., 13 sept. 1750, 26 déc. 1751; Saint-Laurent, 31 janv. 1751; Greffe de J.-B. Adhémar, 10 août 1743, 6 janv., 12 sept. 1748, 8 déc. 1749, 9 juill. 1752; Greffe de L.-C. Danré de Blanzy, 22 avril 1749, 2 sept. 1750, 14 janv., 13 sept. 1751; Greffe de Gervais Hodiesne, 11 mars 1751; Greffe de Simon Sanguinet, 21 sept. 1772. ANQ-MBF, Greffe de J.-B. Badeaux, 16, 17 avril, 24 sept. 1778, 10 févr. 1779, 5 sept., 16 oct., 4, 8 nov. 1780, 23 août 1781, 8 janv. 1782, 15 oct., 6 déc. 1783, 31 août, 15, 28 sept. 1784; Greffe de C.-L. Maillet, 12 févr., 22 juin, 6, 23 oct., 1er nov. 1778, 15 sept. 1779 (the items cited for 1778 have disappeared; the information was taken from the calendar). ANQ-Q, AP-P-526; AP-P-2213; État civil, Catholiques, La Nativité de Notre-Dame (Beauport), 23 févr. 1763; Notre-Dame de Québec, 24 déc. 1752, 26 mars, 23 juill. 1754, 26 mars 1755, 12, 13 sept. 1756, 23 sept. 1757, 16, 25 oct. 1758, 7 mai 1759, 7 nov. 1761, 25 janv. 1762, 26 janv., 2 déc. 1763, 24 févr. 1764, 14 oct. 1765, 19 janv., 18 avril 1770, 7 sept. 1772; Saint-Charles-Borromée (Charlesbourg), 5 sept. 1759; Greffe de Claude Barolet, 5 mars 1755, 25 juin, 13 déc. 1756, 4 mai 1757, 31 mai 1758, 6 mai 1759; Greffe de M.-A. Berthelot d’Artigny, 8 mai 1775, 2 oct. 1777; Greffe de J.-B. Decharnay, 23 juill. 1756; Greffe de C.-H. Du Laurent, 20 août 1748, 25 juill. 1757, 3 mai 1758; Greffe de P.-A.-F. Lanoullier Des Granges, 15 déc. 1750, 20 oct., 12 nov. 1754; Greffe de François Lemaître Lamorille, 25 juin, 12 sept. 1761; Greffe de Claude Louet, 20 oct. 1766; Greffe de F.-E. Moreau, 22 juill. 1763; Greffe de J.-A. Panet, 12, 13 févr. 1779, 17 févr. 1781; Greffe de J.-C. Panet, 24 août, 27 nov. 1752, 22 juin, 31 août 1765; Greffe de J.-N. Pinguet, 26 oct. 1780; Greffe de J.-A. Saillant, 10 avril 1764, 24 nov. 1771; Greffe de Simon Sanguinet, 26 oct. 1751, 21, 22, 25, 26 juin 1754, 10 mai, 20 juin 1755, 24 oct. 1760, 15 nov. 1766, 22 févr. 1768; NF 6, 4, p.428 (copy at PAC); NF 11, 67, f.177; NF 19, 103, 104, 107; NF 20, 30 mars, 5 avril 1742, 14, 24 janv. 1755, 24 août 1756; QBC 26, 1, 1re partie, p.25; 2e partie, pp.17, 41. ASQ, C 11, 10 nov. 1764; Fonds Viger-Verreau, Sér. O, 040A, pp.34–35, 76, 84–85; Polygraphie, XXVII, 21. BL, Add. mss 21845/1, pp.162–251; 21845/2, pp.353, 356 (copies at PAC). IBC, Centre de documentation, Fonds Morisset, Dossier I.-F. Delezenne. PAC, RG 4, A1, 4, 3 avril 1764; 16, 3 févr. 1767; 28, 3 août 1785 (original not located); 95, 13 sept. 1807.
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