|Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique… |
Macon, Dufour, 1805.
Single panel of wall hanging, 520 x 2250 mm., printed in colour from woodblocks with the colouring finished by hand, in fine condition, mounted on silk, framed.
The most glorious depiction of the Pacific
This glorious vision of a Tahitian picnic is one of the most striking sections of the famous Dufour panorama, one of the rarest and most beautiful and valuable of Pacific icons and an outstanding example of French colour printing. Since this piece has remained unused it is a particularly tall example, and in superb condition. This is one of the series of 20 strips which were designed to form a continuous panorama relating to the discoveries of Cook, La Pérouse, and other voyagers among the Pacific islands. The remarkable vision of an arcadian Pacific was produced in the Lyonnais town of Mâcon by Joseph Dufour (1752-1827) after designs by the little-known Jean-Gabriel Charvet (1750-1829). ‘Incorporating ideas from the theatre and landscape design, and utilising visual and literary sources, it summarises fifty years of French interest in the south seas. With its luminous fresh colour, animated scenes, and lush landscape, it was an important achievement in French decorative arts, largely launching a taste for scenic wallpapers, a fashion that lasted for sixty years…’ This panel fits in the panorama between the natives of Nootka Sound and the dance performed for the Tahitian King Otoo. It depicts the ‘sinister Tahitian sect, the Arioi, here enjoying a picnic; they were in fact a mysterious cult that engaged in free-love and offered up human sacrifice. The scene is bucolic, but the accompanying text slyly introduces a frisson of erotic violence, cautioning the reader that when the Arioi think themselves alone, “especially at night, their dances are particularly abandoned”…’ (Martin Terry). Looking more like Roman centurions or Greek archers, their classical appearance recalls such comments as those of Joseph Banks in Thoughts on the Manners of Otaheite, who wrote of the resemblance of the Tahitians to the ancient Greeks.
Dufour published a 48-page booklet which described the tableau and in which he declared his intention as to create something “striking and new in the field of painted paper”, in which people would act as “the companions of the most enterprising travellers”, visiting the “multitude of people the immensity of the oceans keeps far from us”. Above all, “the aim of this enterprise… is to please the eyes and fill the imagination without being boring”.
Because the panorama was intended to be mounted in a room virtually as wallpaper, very few examples have survived the vicissitudes of decorating fashions and the few examples to come on the market have tended to be in poor condition. This example is in superb condition and with the fullest possible dimensions because it remained unused until its modern framing; examples that have been used have more often than not been cut down to meet room heights.
The only known specimens of the panorama held in Australian institutions - two of only eleven in the world - are in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Australia.
|Location of Origin: Asia|
|Medium/Materials: Single panel of wall hanging, printed in colour from woodblocks with the colouring finished by hand, mounted on silk, framed.|
|Dimensions: 520 x 2250 mm|
|Primary Classification: Fine Art : Prints and Multiples : Woodcut|
|Secondary Classification: Decorative Arts and Furniture : Other|
|Item Condition:||In particularly fine condition with the colours fresh and bright, since until its framing in modern times this remained as an unused roll.|
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