Naples:life,death &
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(books about Naples 3)

Jean-Claude Richard — Travels in Naples & Sicily


Jean-Claude Richard de Saint-Non (1727-1791), better known as the Abbé [abbot] de Saint-Non, was a French engraver, designer, archaeologist and traveller. In this Age of Enlightenment, he rubbed enlightened shoulders with Rousseau and U.S. ambassador, Benjamin Franklin.

Richard was an avid participant in and chronicler of the Grand Tour. He travelled extensively in southern Italy in the 1780s; his findings and observations were published in Paris in 1788 as Voyage pittoresque ou Description des Royaumes de Naples et de Sicile. The work was elegant and monumental, consisting of 5 volumes with 542 engravings and illustrations by the best artists of the day, including Richard, himself. The Voyage pittoresque contained a political and social history of the Kingdom of Naples, including Sicily, with sections on the recent archaeological findings at Herculaneum (image, above) and Pompeii, the geology of Vesuvius and the Plegrean Fields, flora and fauna, etc. etc. In all of this, Voyage pittoresque, was not so much a report on the Grand Tour in Southern Italy as it was an integral part of it.

The late 1700s were a fertile time for books about southern Italy. Other works of a similar nature include Istoria de' fenomeni del tremoto avvenuto nelle Calabrie e nel Valdemone nell'anno 1783 [Account of the Effects of the Earthquake in Calabria in 1783] (pub. Naples, 1784) by Pompeo Schianterelli. It, too, was a quality publication, but, as the title indicates, more limited in scope. Limited, as well, but worthy of mention are the works dedicated solely to the recent archaeological discoveries at Paestum. For example, Felice Gazzola (1698-1780), a Spanish engineer who had come to Italy with Charles III of Bourbon upon the dynastic change in 1734, soon commissioned drawings of Paestum and sent them to Rome to be engraved. That was around 1755. The engravings, for whatever reason, did not become a separate publication as Gazzola had planned, but wound up in a much later publication, Paolantonio Paoli's Rovine della Città di Pesto [Ruins of the city of Paestum] from 1784. Also, Thomas Major's The Ruins of Paestum, otherwise Poseidonia in Magna Grecia from 1768 was influential on later works, including Richard's Voyage pittoresque.*

Voyage pittoresque was not the first publication of its kind, but arguably the best in that it was comprehensive. Well into the following century, past the Napoleonic wars, it set a very high standard in the age of pre-photography, when such works relied heavily on quality illustrators and engravers. It was the reference work for those about to set out and explore southern Italy. (This, in spite of Goethe's quibble that some of the illustrations were not accurate. Goethe liked to quibble.)


*note:
Felice Gazzola's influence on subsequent descriptions of Paestum is discussed in Tracing Architecture:The Aesthetics of Antiquarianism by Dana Arnold and Stephen Bending (Blackwell Publishing, 2003), pp.31-37.


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