Louis Janmot, self-portrait
Louis Janmot and Frederic Ozanam made their first Holy Communion together, became friends and used to spend time together after Sunday Mass, and later studied together at the Royal College of Lyon along with other followers of the philosophy professor, Abbe Noirot.
Ozanam’s letters to Janmot contain some of his most quoted passages.
Janmot would go on to become an accomplished artist.
With some other Lyon painters, Janmot entered the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Janmot had an idea for a grand work of spiritual art which would be entitled: Le Poème de l’âme (Poem of the Soul). He wrote about the concept to his friend Frederic Ozanam who replied:
That will be the work of your life. I can see you obsessed with that beautiful conception, year after year realizing it in part, until you present it finished to the world for the honor of God and the edification of man. May the same grace that inspired the idea, preserve your strength to carry it on to completion.
Thanks to Janmot, we have these portraits of Ozanam and his family. This passage from an article found on our sister site, vincentians.com, tells the story:
“Ozanam, weak and thin, courageously resigns himself to drop out of classes, abandon his research, books, articles, charitable activities, and even his dreams, due to his extended illness. It was the price he had to pay to hopefully regain his health so that he could pursue those goals later. At first they send him to Eaux-Bonnes, but he would not benefit from his stay there; after that he heads further south with Amélie and Marie, towards Ayona and Biarritz where the weather is milder. There they are joined by the painter Janmot, Frederic’s childhood friend, who rents a small house for a few weeks, two steps away from Frederic’s hotel. He draws portraits of each member of the family, showing us a Frederic with normal features, well-groomed hair and an impeccable beard. Gray eyes dominate his beautiful noble head. The ribbon of the Knight of the Legion of Honor is suggested in his buttonhole. Amelia, sitting on a sofa, poses in profile. Just thirty years old, she appears older with her high hairstyle: serious, neat, and simple. With an open forehead, a fine nose, a mouth suggesting a slight smile: an immense sweetness comes from this face, which is practical, marked by resignation. Little Marie has the round face and chubby neck of a six-year-old. Her hair is gathered back in a fine netting; large and expressive eyes, and a small and serious mouth finish the portrait of a beautiful little girl, full of grace.”
Source: Ozanam, un sabio entre los pobres. 14. Las alas rotas. 1850-1853. Autor: Madeleine des Rivières · Traductor: Máximo Agustín, C.M.. · Año publicación original: 1997.
This YouTube video offers an overview of Janmot’s paintings. Note: Not necessary to watch the whole 20 minutes. After a while the images start to repeat.
“When Ozanam fell ill in Paris, Janmot was the most assiduous of friends at his bedside: ‘I shall never forget the friendly anxiety with which you came each day of my illness to feel my pulse and to shake my hand with the grip of an old school comrade, and a fellow First Communicant. My wife and relatives are indebted to you for the portrait of one whom they all love. […] Farewell, my dear friend, may the guardian angel of great inspirations guide your brush! You are so good that you deserve to be very happy.”