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Original drawing captioned "M le curé d'Agana en petit negligé"
Guam 1819 - Original ink drawing, 310 x 245 mm., fully signed and dated, framed. Jacques Arago, artist on board the Uranie during the French circumnavigation of 1817-20, drew this intimate portrait of the priest in Agana, the capital of Guam, during the visit there of the Uranie expedition between March and June 1819. This is a charming and unusual portrait of a figure who likely expected to be taken more seriously: the cleric is shown in his "at home" attire, smoking. His relaxed stance, dressed in a vest and daringly striped leggings is further enriched by the addition of the most delicate slippers. Arago (1790-1855) was not only the most accomplished of the artists who made the voyage aboard the Uranie, but was one of the most intriguing of the early travellers. The wonders of the long expedition stayed with him for the rest of his life, and he continued writing and drawing about the Pacific right up until he lost his sight. In 1822 he published his own well-regarded account of the voyage, Promenade Autour du Monde, which was published in an English version in 1823. Over the ensuing decades he wrote many more differing versions of this interesting account. Arago was one of four famous brothers, three of whom were respected authors and artists (the fourth a general). The Freycinet expedition stayed for a long time in Agana where they were well received by the Spanish Governor Don Jose Medinilla. As several of the Uranie crew had recently died from dysentery, Louis de Freycinet took this opportunity to rest his men for several months. Here in the Marianas the Spanish missionaries were both powerful and respected and the sailors were required to attend holy week services. Arago was particularly known for his lively and arresting images of the people he encountered, with a distinct preference for the unusual or the grotesque. Whether the priest knew that Arago was drawing him at this intimate moment is not known, but as the drawing remained, unpublished, though fully signed and dated, in the archives of Captain Louis de Freycinet and his descendants it is more likely that Arago captured this image surreptitiously, and certainly the satirical tone of the caption - with its reference to the curé in his petit negligé - suggests that this delightful vision of the priest off his guard was not meant to be shared. Provenance: Until the 1960s in Freycinet family ownership, subsequently in a private collection.
      [Bookseller: Hordern House Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2017-02-21           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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