Eugenie Servières paints the Romantic Orientalism of Sophie Cottin

Eugenie Servières paints the Romantic Orientalism of Sophie Cottin

Contributor: Christie Margrave

Description (English): In early nineteenth-century France, Eugénie Servières ‘took to painting medieval themes under the influence of romanticism’ (Handley, p.29). Although Servières is little-known, more than one of her paintings interact with the work of one of the most popular novelists of the era: Sophie Cottin. Given Servières’s taste, it is unsurprising that she was inspired by Cottin’s Mathilde ou mémoires tirés de l’histoire des croisades (1805), which is replete with examples of early French Romantic Medievalist imagery. Painted in 1820, this painting, entitled Maleck-Adhel [sic] attendant Mathilde au tombeau de Josselin de Montmorency, was the second of Servières’s paintings to be inspired by Mathilde. Here, she chooses to focus on two particular Romantic tropes: Orientalism and death. In so doing, she emphasises Cottin’s own juxtaposition of these two common features of Romantic texts and images, both representative of the ‘au-delà’, within Mathilde. Servières depicts the scene which takes place at the tomb of Montmorency, and several features of the image aid the reader to unlock the power Cottin attributes to this scene and its spatial setting.

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A Neapolitan pirate between London and Paris…

A Neapolitan pirate between London and Paris…

Contributor: Catriona Seth

Description (English): A novel with an intriguing title, Le Pirate de Naples. Traduit de l’anglais, came out in Paris between 23rd September and 31st December 1801: it bears the double date An X/1801. Whilst all books labelled as such were not necessarily translations, this one was. At a time when the French were avid readers of English gothic fiction, it was translated particularly swiftly: it was published the same year as the original, also in three volumes. The English book cost 13 shillings and sixpence, the translation 5 or 7.5 francs.  Le Pirate de Naples underscores the importance of translators as cultural intermediaries helping to shape a shared European imaginary.

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Laennec’s Stethoscope

Black and white illustration of Laennec's stethoscope.

Contributor: Bénédicte Prot

Translation: Susan Seth

Location: Paris

Description (English): In 1819, in Paris, the Breton doctor René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laennec (1781-1826) published De l’auscultation mediate, the first edition of the treatise in which he presented the results of several years of clinical research as well as the uses of a medical instrument which he had invented: the stethoscope. Placed at the centre of clinical practice, the new tool was to contribute to the development of pathological anatomy and refine the diagnosis of cardiac and pulmonary illnesses. Henceforward the doctor disposed of a means of exploration and a form of mediation which come from a different relation to the patient and render the sick body not only readable but also audible.

There is nothing less romantic, it might seem, than this wood cylinder which, admittedly under a different form, has become the attribute by which we recognise the doctor from the first glance… Yet on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Laennec’s treatise, let us see how the stethoscope was able to become a link between medicine and literature during the Romantic period.

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The Table of Inkwells / La table aux encriers

Table aux quatre encriers (détail du plateau). Paris, Maison de Victor Hugo. Table of Inkwells.

Contributor: Jean-Marc Hovasse

Location: Maison de Victor Hugo, 6, place des Vosges, 75004 Paris.

Description (for English translation, scroll down): Mme Victor Hugo organisait régulièrement sous la monarchie de Juillet des loteries ou des ventes de charité au profit de bonnes œuvres. Elle continua en exil. On raconte qu’ayant croisé au marché une fillette de cinq ans qui gardait non sans périls sa petite sœur de six mois, elle eut l’idée de fonder une crèche à Guernesey, où les mères pourraient déposer leurs enfants pendant qu’elles travaillaient, au lieu de les abandonner dans la rue. Telle est l’origine du grand « Bazar » organisé pendant la dernière semaine du mois de juin 1860 à Saint-Pierre-Port. Il avait été préparé très en amont, comme en témoigne ce passage d’une lettre de Mme Victor Hugo à George Sand datée du 25 mars 1860 : « Afin que ma récolte soit bonne il me faut beaucoup d’objets, et de précieux. M. de Lamartine m’a donné un de ses encriers. Vous voyez que je suis riche déjà. Cette richesse je voudrais l’augmenter d’un encrier qui vous ait servi. Je le mettrai en pendant avec celui de l’illustre poëte. Que l’encrier soit de verre ou de cristal, de sapin ou d’érable, qu’importe, pourvu que vous y ayez trempé votre plume et que vous certifiiez par un mot qu’il vous a appartenu. »

Était-ce vraiment un encrier, ce petit vase de verre rose translucide parcouru d’arabesques d’or donné par Lamartine, avec en guise d’autographe cet alexandrin blanc étalé sur deux lignes : « Offert par Lamartine au maître de la plume » ?

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Chateaubriand’s Cedar

Contributor: Bernard Degout

Location: Domaine départemental de la Vallée-aux-Loups – maison de Chateaubriand

Description: This cedar of Lebanon (cedrus libani) was planted by Chateaubriand in the park of La Vallée-aux-Loups, which he laid out during the eleven years he stayed in the hamlet of Aulnay (1807-1817). Tracing broad pathways, flattening a hill, introducing “thousands” of green trees which had been gifted by friends or acquired from renowned horticulturists, the author amassed here, according to the document which he produced for the sale of his estate, “the most complete collection of planted trees, both exotic and natural, in the whole of France”. He also grouped trees which reminded him of his journeys to America (1791) and the Orient (1806-1807) around the perimeter of the central field. The park of La Vallée-aux-Loups, created by a writer-cum-traveller, is thus a literary park. But, in a way, it is also more than this.

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