JOURDAIN, dit Labrosse, PAUL-RAYMOND, organ builder, master carpenter, wood-carver; baptized 20 Sept. 1697 in Montreal, son of Denis Jourdain, dit Labrosse, master carpenter, and Marie-Madeleine Fagot; d. 8 June 1769 in his birthplace.
Paul-Raymond Jourdain, dit Labrosse, practised the wood-carver’s craft for a great part of his life, a craft which produced a large number of artists in New France. Their professional training was based above all on apprenticeship but was also given at the beginning of the 18th century by the school at Saint-Joachim, near Quebec [see Louis Soumande*]. Whether Jourdain attended this school or became an apprentice in his father’s shop is not known, but he certainly spent five or six years, as was customary, learning his craft under the surveillance of a master.
Curiously enough, Jourdain seems to have been an organ builder before turning to carving. How or where he learned this craft is unknown, but he was practising it in 1721. A contract drawn up on 31 July of that year in Montreal before the notary Jacques David* required “Paul Jourdain dit Labrosse organ builder at Ville-Marie” to make for the cathedral of Quebec “an organ with 7 stops, including the vox humana, in consideration of the sum of 800 livres payable upon delivery of the said instrument.” This contract, however, seems to be the only one that Jourdain carried out as an organ builder.
Towards 1725 he was practising the carpenter’s trade. Then from 1730 to 1741 he worked as a wood-carver at Pointe-Claire, Lachenaie, Prairie-de-la-Madeleine (Laprairie), and Varennes, sometimes helped by the carpenters Augustin Gauthier and Vincent Lenoir; he also worked at Montreal with his brother Denis. During this period he carried out his major work: the retable of the church of Sainte-Anne de Varennes. In 1741 he undertook to carve a tabernacle and retable for the church of Saint-François-Xavier de Verchères, and the following year he did some work for the church of Sainte-Geneviève de Pierrefonds. Later, between 1753 and 1755, he made a paschal candlestick and a tabernacle for the church of Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue (Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu). Finally, in 1756 he carved “the frame for the great picture” in the church of Saint-Pierre-du-Portage at L’Assomption.
The wood-carver’s craft in the 18th century was not limited to the slavish execution of works conceived by an architect. Sometimes the artisan himself conceived the whole of the interior decoration of a church and participated in the exterior decoration by doing statues for the niches on the façade. On the other hand, in different circumstances he only carried out works destined to complete an ensemble or had to content himself with restoring works.
On 16 July 1725, in Montreal, Paul-Raymond Jourdain, dit Labrosse, had married Françoise Gaudé. One of his sons, Dominique, was interested in carving; another, Paul, was a surveyor and clerk of the chief road officer in Montreal at the time of the conquest and at the beginning of the English régime.
Jourdain died on 8 June 1769 in Montreal at 71 years of age. He was buried two days later in the chapel of Saint-Amable in the church of Notre-Dame de Montréal. His carving is not well known. But thanks to some pieces that have survived, he can easily be included among the most important artisans of the 18th century. This opinion is confirmed in a letter from Mme Bégon [Rocbert], who stated in 1750 that in Rochefort, France, she had never found “a workman equal to Labrosse.”
ANQ-M, Greffe de Guillaume Barette, 6 mai 1736; Greffe de Jacques David, 31 juill. 1721; Greffe de N.-A. Guillet de Chaumont, 11 sept. 1732; Greffe de Michel Lepailleur, 15 juill. 1725; Registre d’état civil, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 20 sept. 1697, 10 juin 1769. Archives paroissiales de Sainte-Geneviève (Pierrefonds, Qué.), Livres de comptes, I. Archives paroissiales de Saint-François-Xavier (Verchères, Qué.), Livres de comptes, I. IOA, Dossier Paul-Raymond Jourdain, dit Labrosse, sculpteur. “Correspondance de Mme Bégon” (Bonnault), APQ Rapport, 1934–35, 126–27. P.-G. Roy, Inv. procès-verbaux des grands voyers, III, 1. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. É.-Z. Massicotte, Faits curieux de l’histoire de Montréal (Montréal, 1922), 58. Morisset, Coup d’oeil sur les arts, 111; Les églises et le trésor de Varennes (Québec, 1943), 11. Ramsay Traquair, The old architecture of Quebec (Toronto, 1947), 256. Henri Têtu, “Le chapitre de la cathédrale de Québec et ses délégués en France,” BRH, XIV (1908), 359.