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AUCTION 22

 

Rare & Beautiful Lithograph of a Failed French Colony in Texas


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107.     [CHAMP D’ASILE]. RULLMANN, Ludwig (artist) & Charles Etienne Pierre Motte (lithographer). Les Lauriers seuls y croîtront sans culture [attribution below image at left in contemporary pen and ink] “Rullmann del.” [lithographed imprint below image at right] à l’Imprie. Lithogque de C. Motte Rue des Marais. [Paris, ca. 1818]. Lithograph on heavy paper, depicting a scene on the Trinity River set in a landscape with palm and banana trees, cane, yucca, and lofty mountains(!), Champ d’Asile colonists variously attired in Regency dress and French military uniforms, a man in full military regalia at center greeting new arrivals, a hive of activity with dogs and people (felling trees, plowing a field, laying out plans for structures), a homesick weeping man with a handkerchief and looking at an image of his loved one, a banner flying from a lone surviving pine tree that reads “Colonie Française du Champ D’Asile” and an open book at lower left titled “Victoires et Conquêtes.” Image: 23.2 x 33.6 cm; image, imprint, and title: 24.5 x 33.6 cm; overall sheet: 35.4 x 46.5 cm. A few short tears to blank margins neatly mended, light age toning, professionally washed and deacidified, overall a very good copy. Rare in commerce. Copies located: Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth), Center for American History (Austin), Houston Public Library, Texas State Library, Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge, UK), Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris).

     First edition. This beautiful print—the title of which in English is “Only laurels grow here without cultivation”—is among the earliest lithographs of a scene or subject related to Texas. Pinckney (Painting in Texas: The Nineteenth Century, pp. 11-13) discusses Champ d’Asile prints by Ambrose Louis Garneray, but not the present print. The year 1818 is the first chronological listing in Ron Tyler’s preliminary study of Texas lithographs of the nineteenth century, where he includes the present print and others from the Champ d’Asile series. In his unpublished work Tyler comments:

The lithographs of early Texas range from the mythical views of the French settlement on the Trinity and the Texas Revolution to realistic portraits of some of the participants. In addition to sheet music, artists and publishers issued at least seven separate prints and four books about Champ d’Asile between 1818 and 1820, products of the same Romanticism of the moment. Three of the prints are lithographs. In Le Lauriers seuls y croîtront sans culture, a French military officer, perhaps Lallemand or Rigaud, who was left in command of the settlement when Lallemand was absent, dominates the scene. He is shown shaking hands with one of the settlers. The other settlers are clearly soldiers, but their home-building efforts as well as their agricultural pursuits are strongly emphasized…. Ultimately, Champ d’Asile must be considered a misguided effort, but it is a splendid representation of the Romanticism of the era and stimulated the earliest and, in many ways, the best and most fascinating lithographs of early Texas.

     See also Handbook of Texas Online: Champ d’Asile; Handbook of Texas (first edition): Garneray Family, where Champ d’Asile is characterized as “a motley mingling of French exiles, Spaniards, Poles, Mexicans, and Americans, with a sprinkling of former pirates…more occupied with military exercises and hunting than with cultivation of the soil,” a characterization suppressed in later editions.

     The motives of Champ d’Asile’s founder, Baron Charles François Antoine Lallemand (1774-1839), remain ambiguous. The Baron claimed the Texas settlement was agricultural, but it was rumored the group was a military colony organized to rescue Napoleon and reinstate his empire abroad. After the Battle of Waterloo, Lallemand accompanied Napoleon to surrender at Rochefort and attempted to follow him into exile. The British refused and imprisoned Lallemand in Malta for two months before he escaped. Lallemand and his Bonapartist officers were condemned to death in absentia. Upon arrival in Philadelphia in 1817, Lallemand became president of the French Emigrant Association and obtained grants in present-day Alabama, but these grants were sold, and the 150 colonists that would populate Champ d’Asile sailed to Galveston instead. The initial utopian stage of energetic fort-building and munitions manufacture unraveled as summer on the Trinity arrived. The colonists suffered in fancy, uncomfortably hot wool uniforms, battled swarms of mosquitoes, and harvested meager crops. French, German, Italian, Belgian, Spanish, Polish, Mexican, and Swiss colonists engaged in sometimes violent dissentions. Local Indians, initially friendly, began pilfering, and Karankawas slaughtered and supposedly devoured two colonists on a hunting expedition. In July, upon gathering intelligence that Spanish troops were being dispatched to their fort, the colonists hastily retreated to Galveston with the assistance of the pirate Jean Laffite. In August, 1818, the final blow came in the form of a ferocious hurricane that inundated their Galveston Island refuge with water four feet deep, whereupon most of the colonists fled to New Orleans.

     The quixotic myth of the colony captured the popular imagination, and two other books on the colony plagiarized from Hartmann and Millard (Streeter 1069) quickly appeared: Le Champ d’Asile and Le Héroine du Texas (the latter thought to be the first novel with Texas as a setting). Subsequently, other authors, including Honoré de Balzac (La Rabouilleuse, 1842) incorporated Champ d’Asile in creative fiction. Contemporary music, prints, wallpaper, and even labels for wine bottles celebrated the tragic, short-sighted colonists’ dauntless spirit. See also: All the Banners Wave: Art and War in the Romantic Era, 1792-1851 (exhibition catalog, Brown University Department of Art, 1982); François Lagarde, The French in Texas: History, Migration, Culture (University of Texas Press, 2003); René Rémond, Les États-Unis devant l’opinion française, 1815-1852 (2 vols., Paris: Armand Colin, 1962); Jesse S. Reeves, The Napoleonic Exiles in America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1905).

     German painter, etcher, and lithographer Ludwig Rullmann (1765-1822) studied with David in Paris (no doubt accounting for the strong Romantic aesthetic of this Champ d’Asile image). He worked in Paris and exhibited at the Salon 1808-1822. He generally painted portraits and history scenes. For a brief biography of Rullmann, see Emmanuel Bénézit, Vol. VII, p. 430. See also: Henri Béraldi, Les graveurs du XIXème siècle, guide de l’amateur d’estampes modernes (Paris: Librairie L. Conquet, 1885-1891), p. 278.

     Lithographer Charles Etienne Pierre Motte (1785-1836) operated one of the largest lithography firms in France during the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1827, he persuaded the young Eugène Delacroix to illustrate Goethe’s Faust and personally oversaw the work to its completion. Motte’s many portrait subjects include Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Napoleon; he composed at least two portraits in collaboration with Ludwig Rullmann (Maurice de Nassau and Maurice of Saxony). Bénézit, Vol. VI, p. 244.

($3,000-6,000)

Sold. Hammer: $3,000.00; Price Realized: $3,600.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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