ÉMOND, PIERRE, master carpenter and woodcarver; b. 24 April 1738 at Quebec, to a “father and mother not married to one another”; m. there 6 Sept. 1762 Françoise Navarre; d. there 3 Oct. 1808.
The circumstances of Pierre’s birth remain obscure but he was taken in charge, probably as an infant, and given his name by Pierre Émond, a native of Rivière-Ouelle (Que.). He was trained as a carpenter in either the workshop of François-Noël* and Jean-Baptiste-Antoine* Levasseur, already well established at Quebec, or that of Jean Baillairgé. The second possibility is more plausible, because in various aspects of style Émond’s work has much in common with that of Baillairgé’s son Pierre-Florent.
Émond’s career was mainly spent working for the religious communities in the town of Quebec. He was employed in particular by the Séminaire de Québec, the Hôtel-Dieu, and the Hôpital Général, which after the Seven Years’ War had to repair their damaged buildings. He began his career as a carpenter quite early, at the age of 21, and he was at no loss for orders. The Séminaire de Québec made extensive use of the talents of the young man, who lived a stone’s throw from its walls. In 1761 Émond, who at that time was referred to simply as a carpenter, rented “part of a two-storey stone house situated near the ramparts and near the close of Messrs the priests of the seminary of the said town of Quebec.” In 1768, the year in which Jean Baillairgé produced the plans for reconstructing the church of Notre-Dame in Quebec, Émond took on the job of repairing the Hôpital Général, where he carried out large-scale works in 1769 and 1770, particularly in the chapel; the plan for the latter, which indicates that the building had been occupied by the Recollets, was completely changed. Émond drew attention to himself at that time through his technical skill and his patience in awaiting payment for his services. He was to remain “the usual workman” for the nuns of the hospital until his death.
The seminary’s property at Petit Cap (Cap Tourmente) was developed after 1778, and Émond supervised the building of the house, known as Château Bellevue. He drew up the plans and, with the help of mason Michel-Augustin Jourdain, executed the portal and tower of the chapel. Some time after 1799 he supervised the construction of the chapel of the Hôtel-Dieu and added a porch to it [see Marie-Geneviève Parent, named de Saint-François d’Assise]. In the same period Émond did various smaller pieces of work for the Ursulines, including repairs to their chapel tower, a task that seems to have been his speciality. He also produced plans for churches. For example, his name is mentioned in the contract for building the church of Saint-Ambroise-de-la-Jeune-Lorette (Loretteville, Que.).
Although Émond excelled in carpentry, much of his time after 1785 was taken up with ornamental wood-carving and statuary. In that period Bishop Briand* commissioned him to embellish his private chapel within the precincts of the seminary. The decoration, a very delicate piece of work, consists solely of a wall-retable with a slightly projecting central portion on which rest the branches of an olive tree, which in turn frame a canvas depicting the marriage of the Blessed Virgin. The churchwardens of the fabrique of Notre-Dame entrusted Émond with the task of carving two retables (the structures housing the altars), one in 1789 for the Sainte-Anne chapel, and the second in 1803 for the Sainte-Famille chapel. This agreement may have been made in order to have him share in the work being done by the Baillairgés, who were responsible for the masterly ornamentation of the cathedral’s chancel. Émond continued his decorative work until his death, producing for the parishes around Quebec tabernacles, crosses, candlesticks, and other furnishings designed to enhance the splendour of liturgical ceremonies or to provide storage in the sacristy for the numerous vestments required.
At the same time, in conjunction with his professional activity, Émond on a few occasions acted as agent for his fellow citizens and as referee in disputes concerning buildings in progress. At the time of the American invasion in 1775, he was a corporal in the Quebec militia. In 1790 he became a member of the Fire Society. In addition, when occasion arose he joined with the local notables in signing petitions to the governor, particularly on educational matters. He was a churchwarden of the fabrique of Notre-Dame from at least 1795.
Stylistically Émond belonged to the French régime, doing wood-carvings for customers who were not greatly concerned about change. Although his production shows a high degree of workmanship – Bishop Briand’s chapel is an eloquent witness – Émond displayed no desire for new directions beyond what was required by his situation as a craftsman employed on a regular basis by the religious communities. Moreover, the presence at Quebec of François Baillairgé*, who had been trained in France and who was acutely aware of the new trends, discouraged any attempts at competition.
Pierre Émond kept working until his death in 1808. He left no children and does not seem to have trained apprentices. The inventory of his assets lists among his personal effects a few books, including one treatise on architecture and two on astronomy. The architectural tradition of New France died with him; François and, later, Thomas Baillairgé* were of another school.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 24 avril 1738, 6 sept. 1762, 5 oct. 1808; CN1-16, 22 juill. 1806; 31 juill. 1807; 28 mai, 16 juin, 30 août, 26 déc. 1810; CN1-25, 23 avril 1778; CN1-26, 31 déc. 1805, 31 déc. 1806; CN1-83, 2 mai 1785; 26 janv., 11 févr., 19 nov. 1792; CN1-92, 31 mars, 8 avril 1785; 2 mai 1786; 29 oct., 6 nov. 1795; 19 avril 1802; CN1-99, 10 mars 1808; CN1-178, 23 janv. 1797, 28 janv. 1798, 23 mai 1808, 13 mars 1809; CN1-205, 20 janv. 1780; 5 sept. 1781; 8 avril, 14 nov. 1783; 18 févr. 1784; 27 avril 1785; 16 juill. 1798; CN1-224, 21 janv. 1783; CN1-230, 21 avril 1795; 27 nov. 1798; 14 nov. 1799; 14 mars, 6, 21 mai 1803; 7, 9 mai 1805; CN1-248, 5 sept 1762, 31 mai 1764; CN1-250, 18 juill., 12 oct. 1761; CN1-284, 13 mai 1789; 26, 31 mars, 13 mai 1791; 19 nov. 1792; 17 oct. 1795; 2 mars 1797; 11 mars, 30 oct. 1800; 30 janv. 1801; 24 mars, 1er oct. 1804; 11 août 1807; 17 févr. 1808. Arch. de l’Hôpital Général de Québec, Communauté, Journal, I: ff.113, 132, 161. Arch. du monastère de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, Lettres, carton 5, nos.1–5. ASQ, Évêques, nos.29–38. MAC-CD, Fonds Morisset, 2, E54.5/P622. Raymonde [Landry] Gauthier, Les tabernacles anciens du Québec des XVIIe, XVIIIe et XIXe siècles ([Québec], 1974). Morisset, Coup d’œil sur les arts. Luc Noppen, Les églises du Québec (1600–1850) (Québec, 1977), 29, 35, 164, 176, 188, 190, 246; Notre-Dame de Québec, son architecture et son rayonnement (1647–1922) (Québec, 1974), 145–55. Luc Noppen et al., La maison Maizerets, le château Bellevue: deux exemples de la diffusion de l’architecture du séminaire de Québec aux XVIIIe et XIXe siècles (Québec, 1978). Jean Palardy, The early furniture of French Canada (Toronto, 1963). J. R. Porter, L’art de la dorure au Québec du XVIIe siècle à nos jours (Québec, 1975). Ramsay Traquair, The old architecture of Quebec . . . (Toronto, 1947). Gérard Morisset, “La chapelle de monseigneur Briand,” La Patrie (Montréal), 18 févr. 1951: 26–27; and “Le sculpteur Pierre Émond (1738–1808)” in RSC Trans., 3rd ser., 39 (1946),
Revisions based on:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Québec, CE301-S1, 2 août 1795.