Femme of the Week: La Duthé | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Femme of the Week: La Duthé

March 26, 2010

Femme of the Week: La Duthé

"Let us say to the glory of Alençon that the toffee was accepted with more joy than la Duthé ever showed at a gilt service or a fine equipage offered by the Comte d'Artois."
Balzac, Honoré de. An Old Maid

Catherine Rosalie Gérard (La Duthé), in 1748, was born to win the hearts of many, become the talk of many, and be mocked by many.  She was a dancer at the Opéra in Paris and a star of the Champ-de-elysses.  She also dabbled with the aristocracy.  She had a charming laugh that rang through the halls, and charisma to match it.  Famously blond, she spoke with a pleasant ring to her voice which never sounded annoyed. 

She developed her own signature when performing on stage, a long pause after delivering lines.  She did not do this every time but often.  It certainly made an impression on the audience, and perhaps she aimed for a dramatic effect.

After a few performances, however, it led to the assumption that she was not all there, or possibly just could not remember her lines?  She took on the role of an assumed goose, and as author Joanna Pitman put it, she was empty headed and could not hold a conversation for anything!

But not everyone was interested in Rosalie's conversational skills.  She was captivating and happened to catch the eye of the duc d'Orléans.  In a scandalous instance it is said that he, in one way or another, asked or requested that she might spend some time with his son.  The purpose of the rendezvous would be to, "teach him the facts of life."

Her greatest catch was Louis XVI's brother, the Comte d'Artois.  The affair was short and sweet.  The Comte was slightly younger than Rosalie, and married.  And of course, she was not his only fling. The affair heated up sometime in 1775, and Rosalie received gifts and surprises from her generous Comte.  He "gave her a house in the Chaussée d'Antin," and even had the court painter Spaendonck hired to paint her boudoir.  Her new place, lavishly decorated, had cost the Comte three months and 80,000 pounds; all well spent on his pretty friend.

All the sparkle of her life led her to go around town flashing wealth and fabulousness to anyone who looked.  She called herself a sylph and her motto was: l'arc et le carquois de l'Amour.   Her acting career continued but she was becoming such a topic among gossips, she was soon the main character of a one act play. The play, debuting in Paris, while she was in residence, satirized Rosalie and her stage performances (the long pauses....the silence...etc).  It was called Les Curiosities de la Foire (Curiosities of the Fair). 

Three years prior to the Revolution she moved to England living off the generous sums she acquired from her French suitors.  When the Revolution began her property in France was confiscated. Around this time in 1792 she sat for a painting where she posed as she had seen a woman do in another painting she owned.  The artist, Danloux, chose to place her against a blue background, to him it was the color of blonds. He found the piece "very handsome, and above all a good likeness of the sitter."  


  1. Yes, A true Femme, turned Tart!! lol Thank goodness she got out of France when she did, or you know where her head might have ended up! ;) good story