de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

de Saisset Family History

Ernest de Saisset, the Museum's namesake and a former student at Santa Clara College, was born in 1864 as the second of four children to Pedro and Maria Palomares de Saisset. His grandfather, also named Pedro de Saisset, was born into a prominent French family, and received his education in the Military Academy. He became a lieutenant in Napoleon Bonaparte's army before he reached his 17th birthday. He later married and settled in Paris. In 1829, his wife gave birth to a son, who they named Pedro.

The younger Pedro attended the University of Paris, earning the equivalent to a Bachelor's degree, and then studied law for a year. In 1848 he sailed for America, stopping for four months in Rio de Janeiro, and finally arriving in American by way of Cape Horn. In 1849, one year before California was admitted to the Union,  he arrived in the Bay Area.

Before emigrating to the United States, Pedro had resigned from his position as an officer in the National Guard, however he still maintained allegiance to his native country by serving the French government as consular agent in San Jose, CA. The consulate was located in the family residence on South Market Street in downtown San Jose. Although Pedro's arrival in California coincided with the Gold Rush, he was not necessarily seeking gold. He was, however, certainly intending to capitalize upon the wealth that was quickly accumulating in California. Indeed, he did exactly this when he founded Brush Electric Light company in San Jose, and served as President. 

Pedro soon married Maria J. Palomares, who previously had been married to Antonio Sunol. Pedro and Maria Palomares de Saisset began their life together with considerable advantages and became more prosperous with time. They possessed real estate holdings in the San Jose area, as well as a 3,313-acre ranch in Alameda County. The couple had four children: Ernest, Henrietta, Pierre, and Isabel. Both Henrietta and Isabel attended the State Normal School. Henrietta eventually married Dr. Eugene Filipello and was the only de Saisset child to marry; none of the de Saisset siblings ever had children of their own.

Ernest de Saisset, the oldest of the four children, was born in 1864 while Abraham Lincoln was President and the United States was in the midst of Civil War. At age 16 he enrolled at Santa Clara College and stayed for three academic years until 1883. During his second year at the College he was awarded high marks in French, penmanship, elocution, and figure drawing. In his third and final year, Ernest studied oil painting with Father Tortone, who rated his work "premium" in quality. Unable to find a suitable professional art teacher in San Jose, Ernest traveled to Paris, where his family still had roots and enrolled in the Académie Julian. Although he studied with a number of masters, it was Adolphe William Bouguereau who had the greatest impact on his aesthetic direction.

After several years of study, Ernest returned to San Jose in 1895. He died only a few years later in 1899 of rheumatism. He was 35 years old. Ernest's parents outlived him—his father died in 1902 and his mother in 1907—as did his sister, Henrietta, who died in 1947. There is no record of Pierre's death, as he remained an expatriate for many years. Ernest's youngest sister, and founder of the de Saisset Museum, died on April 22, 1950.

de Saisset Family Crest

de Saisset crest_grey

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