AFTER ENGRAVINGS FROM COMTE CHOISEUL-GOFFIER, VOYAGE PITTORESQUE DE LA GRECE, 1782
Scene 1. An Aqueduct Near Ephesus and Travelers Resting Near Durlach in Caria
Scene 2. Travelers Resting Near Durlach in Caria and Caravan
Scene 3. Ruins of the Temple of Mars near Mylassa
Scene 4. Smyrna, or The Port of Assem-Kalassi near Rhodes
CATALOG NOTES from SOTHEBY'S
“Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier (1752-1817) and the ‘Voyage Pittoresque de la Grece’
This exquisite and rare panoramic wallpaper in a set of 24 original panels illustrates the voyage which the comte de Choiseul-Gouffier made into the Aegean Sea and along the Turkish coast from Izmir (Smyrna) to Rhodes in 1776. In 1782, upon his return to Paris, the comte de Choiseul-Gouffier published, “Voyage Pittoresque de la Grece". The engravings contained therein are based on drawings
by the talented artist J. B. Hilair which he made in situ when he accompanied Choiseul-Gouffier on his travels. The engravings give exact but inverted topographical views of landscapes and antique ruins, and present a perfect combination of geographical interest with the harking back to Antiquity and satisfying ‘armchair travelers’ appetite for both ‘exoticism and realism’. There is clear a reference of each scene to a place in the comte Choiseul-Gouffier’s book.
The panels combine landscapes with ruins, rocky outcrops and stretches of water peopled with groups of figures and monuments easily identifiable form the engravings of Hilair. The panel, “Travelers Resting near Durlach in Caria” is so completely faithful to the original that one can identify the silhouettes of the author Choiseul-Goffier and the artist Hilair.
It is interesting to conjecture whether or not Hilair was involved in the production of the scenie wallpaper as his illustrations for Gouffier’s Volume I, inspired … scenes which are reversed in the wallpaper and his oriental figures were liberally borrowed almost unchanged for others.
Comte Choiseul-Gouffier (Marie-Gabriiel-Auguste-Florent)
He was born in Paris in 1752 and in his early years became interested in the arts and in Antiquity. At the age of nineteen he married and his wife was “l’heritere de la maison de Goufier”. He added her name to his name and was now a man of substance and the possibility of realizing his dreams of traveling to Ancient Greece became a reailty. In his plans he was guided by the famous Abbe J. B. Barthelemy who at this time was writing his book on the same subject which he called “Voyage du jeune Anar chasis en Grece”. The comte gathered together artists and engineers to accompany him on his voyage. At the tender age of twenty four, he embarked on his journey on board the “Atalanta”. The ship was under command of marquis de Chabert, ‘capitaine des vaisseaux du roi’, who was in charge of collecting data for a new map of the Mediterranean. Comte Choiseul-Gouffier managed to make an agreement with the marquis to take him and his party to various places of Ancient Greece. It was the land of Homer and Herod that the young Count was longing for. He wanted to see what remained of these ancient cities, temples and the Greek population. For almost one year the Atalanta served comte Choiseul-Gouffier for his explorations.
Once back in Paris, in 1782, the first volume of his “Voyage pittoresque de la Grece” was published. It was a monumental and luxurious book, large folio, 204 pages with 126 very fine and mostly large engravings. The frontispiece shows and engraving of an allegorical figure, a youyng woman as Ancient Greece in chains among the tombstones of Greek heroes. Behind her a ruined wall bears the inscription “Exoriare aliquis”, a call for Greek freedom, a very early call, more than forty years before Lord Byron’s landing at Missolonghi. A few hundred copies of the book were printed and they aroused great interest.
The author was elected a member of the “Academie Francaise”. In 1784, he was appointed the King’s ambassador to Constantinople. Comte Choiseul-Gouffier stayed in office until 1792. It was not until 1802, that he could return to Paris, but he found that his wealth had been dissipated and part of his collection from his first voyage was dispersed. Nevertheless he set out to print a second volume of this “Voyage pittoresque” in 1809. In 1815, comte Choiseul-Gouffier was made “minister de l’etat” and “Pair de France” and it was at the same time that his earlier work (Vol. I) met with new interest and that the wallpaper manufacturer Dufour in Paris set out to print a wallpaper panorama after some of the charming and decorative engravings of Volume I. This must have taken considerable time and money because about one thousand woodcuts had to be made to transform and enlarge the engravings to be printed on wallpaper. It was offered both, ‘en grisaille’ and ‘en sepia’.
The popularity of wall decoration in the form of scenic wallpaper in bourgeois salons and dining rooms, according to Yvonne Brunhammer, (see Le monde du papier Peint, Paris, 1981), corresponds to a profound need in the individual, “the interior in not just the universe but also the Etui of the private individual”.
Furthermore, according to the German writer Walter Benjamin, (1892-1940), in his seminal essay on Paris in the 19th century, ‘..The private individual, who in his office has to deal with reality, needs the domestic interior to sustain him in his illusions. The interior brings together the far away and long ago. His living room is a box in the theatre of the world’. He also wrote that for 19th century collectors, scenic wallpapers enable them ‘to dream (their) way no only into a distant or bygone era but also into a better one’.
The 19th century bourgeoisie were fascinated by scenic wallpaper which depicted panoramic wallpapers over a whole series of lengths. ‘From a modest boarding house (described by Balzac) to the Goncourt’s dining room,. These papiers peints could be found. They were mainly hung in salons or dining rooms and less commonly in bedrooms. The walls became a place of escape and the art of papier peint emerged in the late 18th century and it’s origins are shrouded in mystery. Sebastien Le Normand wrote the first article on wallpaper in 1822 and concluded that ‘the true reason that it has been omitted form general description of the arts is due to secrecy that the artists have consistently maintained concerning their methods and to the difficulty in entering their workshops encountered by anyone who might have described them’.
From the early days of scenic wallpaper, the panoramic view was intended to come full circle. In most cases the last length could be connected to the first, the idea that the circumference of the room would correspond to the total breadth of the landscape, although buyers were entitled to purchase part of a group. The start or end of a composition was not obvious except for the narrative episodes in the case of figured landscapes.
Total width, 36.6 ft. Scene 1: w 161 in. x h 74.5 in.; Scene 2: w 90 in. x h 74.5 in.; Scene 3: w 99 in. x h 74.5 in.; Scene 4: w 87 in. or 106 in. x h 74.5 in.
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES
Odile Nouvel-Kammerer, French Scenic Wallpaper, Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris 190 cat. 70, p. 304-305, p. 140, 142, 143, illustrated
Josef Leiss Bilotapeten, Hamburg, 1961, p. 69, plates 19,21 illustrated
Heinrich Olligs, ed., Tapeten, vol. 11 Braunschweig, 1970, p. 258-259, illustrated
Staatliche Schlosser, Burgen und Gorten Sachen (ed.) Dresden, Michael Sandstein Verlag 2005, p. 135-137, illustrated
Notes copyright © 2012 Sotheby’s