Monday 21 October 2019

The Pyramids of Yaruqui

The Pyramid at Caraburo today
Rising incongruously from the flat plain, the so-called "Pyramids of Yaruqui" - at Caraburo and Oyambaro -  stand as a curious memorial to the French geodesic expedition in Ecuador. In theory their purpose was to mark the two ends of the baseline for future surveys -  perhaps a triangulation to the North or perpendicular to the Meridian. In reality, they were  intended chiefly as a monument to French scientific pretensions:

Monday 14 October 2019

French scientists at the Equator, 1735

Voyages of Discovery:  the Figure of the Earth (BBC,2006)

Last week BBC4 repeated a documentary on the French geodesic mission of 1735, one of the Voyages of Discovery series introduced by explorer and broadcaster Paul Rose.  It was originally broadcast in 2006.   Having missed it the first time round, I was pleased to catch the repeat.  The production was  marred by some truly dreadful dramatic reconstructions which made La Condamine and his colleagues look like caricatures out of Horrible Histories.  However, the filming on location in Peru was stunning. The historical consultant for the programme was the American naval historian Larrie Ferreiro, who has since written a well-regarded full-scale study of the expedition.(Measure of the Earth, published 2011)

I found it difficult in places to piece together events from the information given, so here is a summary of the main points of the narrative, plus a few supplementary "viewing notes".

Saturday 5 October 2019

Hidden treasures of the Musée Lambinet

Here are a few 18th-century highlights from the exhibition, "Hidden treasures of the Musée Lambinet", currently on show in the "Espace Richaud" in Versailles. The venue is the chapel of the former hôpital royal, which has been completely renovated and was opened as an exhibition space in 2015.  As the Lambinet's director Emilie Maisonneuve explains, the idea of the exhibition is to showcase fifty or so carefully selected objects from the collections. The grandiose setting, with its magnificent cupola, gives an opportunity to display decorative pieces which are easy to overlook in the confines of the museum.  Also included are a number of items of particular historical interest, some of which are too fragile to be on permanent view. There doesn't seem to be any online listing, but many of the exhibits can be identified in the photos and videos.

Centrepiece - A Harp

Harp, constructed between 1787 and 1799, by Jean-Henri Naderman (Fribourg 1735-Paris 1799). Sculpted and gilded wood.  Inv. 1076 - Legs Couderc.

Chosen for the central focal point of the exhibition, this sculpted harp made by Jean-Henri Naderman, gilded and decorated with vernis Martin and featuring the head of a ram. Naderman settled in Paris in 1762 or 1763 and in 1778 became official instrument maker to Marie-Antoinette.   He built instruments for Madame Victoire and the comte de Polignac.  A few other similar harps survive - in the   Louvre and at Versailles - but this is one of the finest examples. 

Here is the harp on display in the Salon doré of the museum:


Two chairs from a set comprising six chairs, a chimney screen and an ottomon, bearing the stamp of Jean-Baptiste Sené (1748-1803).  Sené was the principal supplier to the Garde-Meuble from 1785, but he also worked for private clients. Gift of Paul-Louis Weiller in 1978.

Above: Writing desk of about 1770, made by Pierre Roussel (1723-1782). Inv. 90.6.1. 

Below: Commode of about 1764  with top of Languedoc marble, bearing the mark of François Reizell, master in 1764. Inv. 90.6.2.  Both items gifts of Monsieur Vaccaro, 1990. 

Commode by Mathieu Criaerd (1689-1776)  This piece was delivered to the Palace of Versailles in 1752 for the apartments of Madame Infante, duchess of Parma (the eldest daughter of Louis XV). Inv. 90.7.1 - Gift of baron Edmond de Rothschild  in 1988.
More pictures and details are posted on ConnaissancesdeVersailles

The items of furniture have been chosen to illustrate the museum's continuing importance  as a "maison de collectionneurs" in receipt of items from significant donations from private collections.


Late 18th-century cartel clock, with movement by Jean-Noël Bigand (d. 1741); vernis Martin and gilded bronze [Inv. 311]  and(right) a fine Meisen clock.  I couldn't find details for the gilded monster in all the videos.  The notice beside it, gives the maker as André Hessen and the date as "after 1775".


There are a trio of portrait busts on display.  The central one is the Lambinet's copy of Pajou's Louis XVI; I am not sure about the other two.


Jacques de Lajoue (1686-1761) Architectural fantasy showing a terrace or marble pavilion at the end of a canal, c.1736. Inv. 85.7.1.  
Notice on Joconde:

Nicolas Bertin (1668-1736) Moses and the daughters of Jethro, 1704. Inv. 83.9.1 . 
Notice on Joconde

Other pieces of historical interest

Fan, painted paper on ivory frame, showing a view of the Palace of Versailles.c. 1750. Inv. 95.15.1.

Original sketch of Charlotte Corday by Jean-Jacques Hauer (1751-1829).  Part of the Collection Charles Vatel.  Hauer was authorised to make Corday's portrait during the trial, and was invited to complete it in her prison cell.  The work is very fragile and not normally on display.
Here is Stéphane Bern on Corday at the Lambinet:

Painting on a plate by Hubert Robert, during his imprisonment in saint-Lazare, showing a gaoler inscribing the names of prisoners entering the prison. Inv. 754
On Joconde:

Miniature on ivory of Alexandrine Jeanne Le Normant d'Etiolles, the daughter of Madame de Pompadour who died aged nine. After a painting of 1749 by Boucher, recently acquired by the Palace of Versailles.
See Société des Amis de Versailles


Press notice for the exhibition:

TV78 - La chaîne des Yvelines:  Interview with the director of the Lambinet Emilie Maisonneuve.

"Exposition Trésors cachés du Musée Lambinet",  Perfumeuse.canalblog post of 22.10.2019

See also: Musée Lambinet, Suivez-nous au XVIIIe siècle [Museum guide]

Note, February 2020
This month the Lambinet launched its new "virtual" collections webpages.  The initial 63 items were all  included in the "Hidden Treasures" exhibition, and there is also now a link to the full Journal de l'Exposition.  Having struggled to research this post, I can't be bothered to add in all the information that I've missed. However, if anyone is interested in checking details for particular exhibits, selected online entries and the fill pdf catalogue are now available at the above link!
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