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Tunis - Expo London 1851

Tunis at the Exhibition Expo London 1851

Next to two large carpets, of rather mediocre quality, which announce the Tunisian exhibition, one is surprised to see, not African products, but products from Chile and Peru.
The first of these countries has sent fruit, wood and a few samples of its rich and numerous copper and silver ores. The latter is represented by chinchilla furs, some woollen blankets and elegant filigree objects, among which a delightful basket and two charming statuettes of peacocks stand out.

The left side of the aisle really belongs to Tunis, whose name is inscribed at the entrance. A few beautiful carpets, shawls, blankets, embroidered jackets and burnous warn us in favour of Tunisian industry, which shows us, a little further on, products worthy of rivalling those of Turkey: these are magnificent saddles, with high edges, covered with red velvet with gold embroidery, and fitted with gun bottoms also gilded.
pistols also gilded. Nothing is richer than the silk garments, the overcoats, the trousers, the dolmans with brandebourgs, the military burnous, which fill the Tunisian shop windows.
Gold is lavished on all these fabrics in large and elegant embroideries. Not a trace of European influence in all this.

These magnificent fabrics contrast with the common clothes on the walls, and especially with the truly patriarchal products displayed in the second large room in Tunis. There stands a tent of coarse wool, covered with the skins of lions, the primitive habitation of a nomadic and warlike race. There we see objects whose ancient forms and simplicity remind us of the characters of the Old Testament. They are earthenware vases,

jugs with two handles and an elongated shape like the one Rebecca was supposed to use; common metal pottery, calabashes, wineskins, cheesecloth and coarse blankets.

The Tunisian shoes are distinguished by their excessive size; it is clear that they were made for a walking people who were not concerned about being short-footed. The smell they give off is exactly that of Russian leather; they must be prepared in the same way: a singular analogy, given the distance that separates the two countries.

We also notice men's straw hats, which are similar to those of our peasant women in the width of their brims; some samples of common soaps; seeds, candles, and a guitar of a very original shape. All these products have obviously been made on the same model and by the same processes for several centuries. It is the immobility, the status quo of ancient industry, transported, as if in contrast, to the palace of the wonders and progress of modern industry.

© Palais de Cristal – Journal Illustré de L’Exposition de 1851