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Gallery of the People of the PacificCook & La Pérouse Expeditions

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449.     [PACIFICA]. [COOK & LA PÉROUSE EXPEDITIONS]. GRASSET DE SAINT SAUVEUR, Jacques. Tableau des Découvertes du Cook, & de la Pérouse [left below neat line] J.G.St. Saveur Fecit [right, below neat line] Phelipeau [i.e., Phelippeaux] Sculp. [bottom, below text] Tous Contrafacteur sera poursuivi d’après la Loi, le dépot étant fait à la Bibliothèque Nationale. l’an 7 de la République Française. Par Jacques Grasset St. Saveur Ancien Vice Consul de France en Hongrie. | À Paris chez l’Auteur Rue Coqueron Mon. de France. Et à Bordeaux chez la Cne. St. Sauveur sous le peristile de la grande Comédie | Écrit par Malbesle. Paris, n.d. [ca. 1788-1789]. Neat line to neat line: 31.2 x 49.3 cm; image area and text: 41.7 x 49.5 cm; overall sheet size: 43.3 x 51.2 cm. Copper-engraved plate with contemporary hand coloring. 24 numbered costume plates of peoples of the Pacific, their artifacts, and homes set in landscapes, arranged in three panels, numbered key below, surrounded by narrow pictorial border. Some minor splits at lower margin (no losses), otherwise, a very fine copy of an unusual eighteenth-century Pacific print, with exceptionally fine and elegant coloring. Provenance: Sir Maurice Holmes.

The present engraving is associated with Grasset de Saint Sauveur’s exceedingly rare two-part work, consisting of text (Histoire Abrégée des découvertes des Captaines Cook, Wilson, La Pérouse… Paris, 1797-1798; see Forbes 271 & Beddie 258) and a separately issued portfolio (Tableaux des principaux peuples… Paris, 1798; see Forbes 281 & Colas 1301). Five large-format plates (Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and the Pacific) appeared in the portfolio, the present engraving being the last. The print is in original state, as issued, never folded into a book and never intended to be. Later versions of the print were lithographed.

     This engraving is a rara avis within the enormous body of work of Grasset de Saint Sauveur, most of which consisted of thousands of individual costume plates bound in books. Here, departing from his usual mode, Grasset de Saint Sauveur skillfully wove together two dozen individual scenes from various sources such as John Webber’s Views in the South Seas (1800) that present a unique human tapestry of the Pacific. Forbes insightfully describes Grasset de Saint-Sauveur’s output as “a bibliographical nightmare” (Hawaiian National Bibliography 137).

The image presents twenty-four separately identified groups of two, three, or four inhabitants from the different regions and islands of the Pacific Basin, including Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest Coast, Tahiti, New Zealand, South America, the Philippines, etc. This intriguing engraving was born out of the consuming European need to know and understand the new lands and new peoples of the Pacific explored by Cook, La Pérouse, and their contemporaries. Grasset de Saint Saveur satisfied that need by creating a virtual microcosm of the Pacific that is at once informative and aesthetically pleasing. The viewer is invited in to observe exquisite miniature scenes offering an intimate glimpse of the exotic people, clothing, material culture, landscapes, pastimes, and familial and social groups of lands newly discovered. The indigenous people are depicted as dignified and graceful. The sinuous pictorial border incorporates flora, fauna, human figures, and artifacts of the Pacific Basin.

Canadian artist, writer, and diplomat Jacques Grasset de Saint Sauveur (1757-1810), developed an abiding interest in primitive people early in his life, leading him to initiate his encyclopedic series of illustrated works of all the people of the world. Born in Montreal at the beginning of the Seven Years’ War, he went to live in France after the conquest of New France by the British. He studied at Sainte-Barbe College in Paris, later embarked upon a diplomatic career, and died in Paris. Bordeaux engraver Antoine Phelippeaux (1767-1830) specialized in portraits and exhibited at the Salon in 1804 (Bénézit, Vol. VI, p. 614).


Sold. Hammer: $4,000.00; Price Realized: $4,800.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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