VÉZINA, CHARLES, wood-carver; b. 25 Jan. 1685 at L’Ange-Gardien, son of François Vézina and Marie Clément; m. on 27 July 1705, in Quebec, Louise Godin (Gaudin), by whom he had nine children; d. 8 Aug. 1755 at Les Écureuils.
At the end of the 17th century few native-born craftsmen were practising the decorative arts in New France. For that reason Bishop Laval* had to bring from France between 1675 and 1680 a group of craftsmen to train carpenters, woodcarvers, masons, and stone-cutters to meet the colony’s needs. At that time the school of arts and crafts at Saint-Joachim, the creation of Jean Talon* and Bishop Laval, became the most important centre of apprenticeship in the crafts [see Louis Soumande*]. According to a statement by Intendant Jacques de Meulles* in 1685, instruction was given there in “carpentry, woodcarving, painting, gilding, for the decoration of churches, [as well as] masonry work and framework.” The proximity of the school at Saint-Joachim and particularly the fact that towards 1700 its members worked on the retable in the church of L’Ange-Gardien suggest that Charles Vézina may have received his training from the craftsmen who worked on his parish church. Vézina was thus to become one of the first Canadian wood-carvers, along with Noël Levasseur*. According to Gérard Morisset* Vézina is supposed to have been one of the most famous disciples of Jacques Leblond* de Latour, a teacher at the Saint-Joachim school. Vézina is even believed to have assumed the headship of this educational establishment in 1705. The almost complete lack of documentation for the institution’s development does not permit us, however, to determine whether Charles Vézina received his training there, or what his role was as head of the school at Cap-Tourmente, if indeed he did occupy that office.
Subsequently his career is better known. Indeed, certain account books inform us that in 1707 he worked on the “carving of the altar custodial, the altar gradin, and the frame of the high altar” in the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Pitié in the church of Notre-Dame de Québec, then in 1708 and 1709 on the retable of the church of Sainte-Anne-du-Petit-Cap (Sainte-Anne de Beaupré). He also did various carvings between 1728 and 1746 at Pointe-aux-Trembles (Neuville), Saint-Pierre on Île d’Orléans, Saint-Augustin de Québec, and especially at Charlesbourg. The account books of the last parish reveal that in the period 1741–46 Vézina carved a retable, a tabernacle, and several other works intended for the decoration of the church choir. Charles Vézina died in 1755 at Les Écureuils, where he had been living for some years.
AJQ, Registre d’état civil, L’Ange-Gardien, 26 janv. 1685; Saint-Jean-Baptiste des Écureuils, 9 août 1755. Archives paroissiales de Saint-Charles (Charlesbourg, Qué.), Livres de comptes, I, 1675–1749. IOA, Dossier Charles Vézina, sculpteur. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Gérard Morisset, “Généalogie et petite histoire: École des Arts et Métiers de Saint-Joachim,” SGCF Mémoires, XVI (1965), 72. Musée du Québec, Sculpture traditionnelle du Québec (Québec, 1967), 64, 138. Gérard Morisset, “L’École des Arts et Métiers de Saint-Joachim,” La Patrie (Montréal), 1er oct. 1950.