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Retrospective Arts Exhibitions - Expo Paris 1878

Retrospective Arts Exhibitions at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1878

The historical and ethnographic collections assembled at the Trocadero Palace, borrowed both from national museums and from wealthy amateurs, whose willingness to part with their treasures for several months is indeed worthy of the warmest congratulations, form the richest and most complete collection of the wonders of the past that has ever been seen and that we may not see again any time soon. There is no comparison between this immense and infinitely varied exhibition and the History of Work exhibition in 1867, which lacked the ethnography of foreign peoples and was, I believe, at least 2,000 square metres smaller.

Two large divisions share this exhibition: the first is devoted to the historical exhibition of ancient art, installed in the left wing of the palace; the second includes the ethnography of foreign peoples and occupies the right wing.

The historical exhibition of ancient art occupies fifteen rooms, which we will visit first, in chronological order.

In the first room, monuments of primitive or pre-historic art and the beginnings of the historical period are exhibited. There is a large collection of objects of all kinds made of polished flint, bone and bronze, plates of reindeer antlers and cave deer, mammoth ivory, etc., engraved schists; sculpture tests, primitive pottery, lacustrine antiquities; finally, weapons and various utensils made of bronze, Gallic coins, etc. At the end of the room, one stops in front of the tomb of a Gallic warrior, buried with his weapons and lying on his chariot, of which a few debris remain.

The second room covers the period of Greek and Roman antiquity as well as other known peoples. It is particularly rich. The only relic from the Parthenon to be found in Franco is a real treasure: the head of Phidias' Apterous Victory, which belongs to the Marquise de Laborde. The body of this splendid piece of sculpture, the authenticity of which is unquestionable, is in the British museum. We should also mention a statue from the tomb of Mausoleus; fragments of a bronze chariot, including its hub boxes decorated with statuettes and a quantity of other bronze objects, weapons, vases, statuettes, jewellery, etc., discovered in the ruins of Dodona by Mr. Carapanos; numerous statuettes from Tanagra; antiquities from Syria, Egypt, Phoenicia, Persia, Byzantium, Sicily, etc.; and a number of coins from the Roman Empire. Finally, there are Greek, Roman, Persian, Merovingian and other coins.

The third room is devoted entirely to the rich collection of antiques belonging to M. Julien Gruau, from Troyes: terracotta, enamelled earthenware, glassware, bronzes (notably a bust of Alexander the Great), figurines, weapons, etc., from Greece, Syria, Rome and Gaul.

In room 4, many religious objects from the Middle Ages are on display, notably a painted wooden Christ from the 18th century; the crosier attributed to Saint Gautier, abbot of Saint-Martin de Pontoise (11th century); a processional cross in chased silver decorated with translucent polychrome enamels from the 15th century; a triptych of the Virgin Mary belonging to the Lyon Museum; reliquaries, precious fabrics, tapestries and embroidery. There are also Merovingian weapons, a magnificent collection of jewellery and toiletries from the period from the life to the 9th century, charming ivories, coins and a large number of precious manuscripts of all kinds.

The Basilewski collection alone occupies the fifth room, and it is not complete. This collection of unprecedented richness and variety embraces the entire Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance up to the end of the XVth century: furniture, arms and armour, bronzes, silverware, ivories, enamels, earthenware from Oiron or Henri II, enamelled earthenware from Bernard Palissy, Italian majolica, etc., etc. A large volume would be made of a catalogue raisonné of these treasures.

Room 6 contains fragments of sculptures from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, tapestries and embroideries, medals and coins, keys, locks, door hammers, historiated plates, some enamelled earthenware from the school of Luca della Robbia: This is the beginning of Room 7, where Florentine bronzes and marbles, glassware, terracotta, enamels, earthenware, goldsmiths' and silversmiths' wares from the Italian Renaissance period accumulate to form a priceless treasure. Of particular note are a Tombstone and an Adoration of the Magi, bronze bas-reliefs by Andrea Riccio; a marble head of a young man, attributed to Michelangelo; two cherubs from the school of Donatello, of which there are quite a few works in this room; a Madonna by Luca della Robbia, in glazed clay, and several pieces executed by his disciples, his brother or his nephew Andrea; a bronze bust of Michelangelo; boxes of all kinds of materials, jewellery, religious objects, etc.

The eighth room continues the seventh; here we are in the middle of the Renaissance. Two bronzes by Benvenuto Cellini, belonging to M. G. de Rothschild, are at the entrance. After the bronzes, including a 15th century equestrian Pucelle d'Orléans, come the earthenware and enamels; Palissy's earthenware is found in large numbers in the collections of Messrs Gustave and Alphonse de Rothschild, Seillière and Odiot, who also exhibit Italian earthenware and some Oiron and Hispano-Moorish earthenware. Then come the enamels from Limoges, especially the Twelve Apostles by Léonard Limosin, belonging to the city of Chartres; glassware from Venice; goldsmiths' and clocksmiths' pieces, books and precious manuscripts.

Room 9 is occupied by the Spitzer collection, composed mainly of weapons and armour from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, marine, astronomical and mathematical instruments, together with bronze statuettes and groups, bas-reliefs, escutcheons, locks and keys, as well as various everyday objects: cases, boxes, gourds, writing cases, etc.

In room 10, two completely different private collections have been brought together: that of Maillet du Boullay, in which we note a magnificent wooden triptych from the Memmling school, carved wooden furniture, tapestries, weapons, earthenware, stoneware, and magnificent ivories, in particular two Spanish arms of the cross; and that of Mr. Strauss, made up entirely of Hebrew religious art objects. Most of these objects belong to the 16th and 17th centuries, but a few date back to the 13th and perhaps even the 12th century, including an eight-spouted lamp in the Roman style.

The Strauss collection may be unique in the world, at least in Europe, and we need not stress the importance of such a collection from the point of view of the religious and intimate history of the scattered Israelites, who were nonetheless united by the same unshakeable faith. We will mention the Holy Ark where the scrolls of the sacred Law are enclosed, a piece of furniture made of walnut, from the Italian Renaissance, with carved panels and framed with marquetry, spiral columns painted red, black and gold; an officiant's desk, or Theba, of the same style, surmounted by an eight-branched bronze candlestick; a smaller ark, or portable tabernacle, made of embossed and chiselled silver, from the end of the 17th century; several eight-branched silver or copper candlesticks of precious workmanship; perfume boxes for the closing ceremony of the Sabbath, in silver filigree, silver repoussé, or chased, or gilt, bronze, some decorated with gems; a silver gilt crown, several ornamental plates or Tass in silver repoussé, etc.; indicator hands; various ornaments for the closing ceremony of the Sabbath, in silver filigree, silver repoussé, or chased, or gilt, bronze, some decorated with stones; a silver gilt crown, several ornamental plates or Tass in silver repoussé, etc. The next room contains objects relating to the history of the Church, such as a crown in gilded silver, several ornamental plates or Tass in embossed silver, etc.; indicator hands; various ornaments from the scroll of the Law; cups and goblets and circumcision knives of admirable workmanship; cases, cassolettes; a whole extremely curious collection of engagement rings; tabernacle curtains; and prayer books and manuscripts, to which must be added the collection of precious manuscripts, Korans, Hebrew and oriental Bibles belonging to the Chief Rabbi Charleville.

The next room contains objects relating to the history of Poland, collected by Prince Czartoryski, Count Dzialynski and several other Polish gentlemen. There are weapons and armour from different periods, saddles decorated with all the ostentation of the Slavic race, precious fabrics, Persian-style carpets from Krakow, silverware, portraits, books, porcelain, enamels, etc.

The twelfth room contains furniture and weapons from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. In the next room is the magnificent and extremely varied collection of arms and armour on loan from an American, Mr. W. Riggs. These objects cover a long period from the Middle Ages to the reign of Louis XV. This room also contains objects belonging to various collectors, including a sword of honour given to Lafayette in America; other arms of honour given to Masséna by the First Consul; French, German and Italian medals and medallions, etc.

Room 14 is filled with all kinds of objects from the last three centuries: French earthenware, soft porcelain, hard porcelain, a few pieces of silverware, bronze medallions, fans, sculpted furniture, and above all, books with splendid bindings, enriched with delightful miniatures and delicious isolated miniatures. We mainly noticed magnificent specimens of Rouen earthenware, presented by several collectors and by the Rouen Ceramic Museum, and of Nevers earthenware; Sèvres porcelain of various periods, exhibited by Messrs. Seillière and Beurdeley, old Sèvres exhibited by Mr. F. Davis, of London, with remarkable specimens of Chelsea porcelain. Let us add a few coins and watches, including those of Henri III, Robespierre and the painter Boucher. As for the miniatures and bindings, it is impossible to give an idea of their richness and beauty by speaking in the superficial manner imposed on us by the limited space available.

Along with the musical instruments and memorabilia of illustrious musicians, which we have already mentioned, the last room also contains artistic porcelain, earthenware and stoneware; gold and silverware, tortoiseshell objects; watches, luxury bindings and a number of charming knick-knacks from the 17th and 18th centuries. In the middle of this room, we can see the magnificent astronomical clock from Versailles, the clock of the Cardinal de Rohan, belonging to the Imprimerie Nationale, a marble Diana by Pigalle, a bronze Apollo by Houdon. Among the ceramic treasures it contains are Dr Mandl's famous collection of Delft earthenware; Sèvres porcelain, taken from a revolutionary museum famous among enthusiasts and artists; beautiful Saxon porcelain by Mr Maurice Kann; a fine collection of Saint-Amand earthenware belonging to Mr Lejeal; Rouen; Nevers; old sèvres by Mr Davis; crystals, etc.
Finally, let us add that the partitions separating the rooms are covered with rich tapestries from Flanders, Arras, Brussels, Beauvais, the Savonnerie and the Gobelins, a description of which would take us too far.

We must also take a look at the eastern room on the first floor. This room is rich in ceramics. There are vases and cover plates of Hispano-Moorish and Persian earthenware belonging to various collectors; earthenware from Damascus, Rhodes, Sicily, etc.; and Turkish, Italian and Spanish bronzes. Then there are Turkish, Arab and Persian bronzes; Persian and Indian miniatures; rich fabrics and carpets; magnificent weapons; Arab woodwork; engraved stones; mosque lamps made of precious materials and exquisite workmanship; oriental jewellery; various instruments; Arab and Hispano-Arabic glassware and ivories, etc.

We shall now go through the foreign rooms, which are no less interesting than those we have just left, and which occupy the right wing of the palace.

Entering through the corner pavilion of the park, we first find the exhibition of the Ethnographic Museum of Stockholm, founded in 1872 by Dr. Hazelius. It consists of groups modelled by the sculptor Soederman, representing characteristic "scenes", and consequently the types and costumes of the inhabitants of the various regions of the kingdom. In the centre is a group of seven figures in the costumes of the parish of West Vingæker (Sundermania): a young girl surrounded by her parents, who has just received her engagement present. On the right, another group of figures wearing the costumes of the provinces of Mora and Orsa (Dalarna) depicts a fair day in the village of Mora. On the same side, a second group represents Lapps in the process of migration. The scene takes place at the foot of a mountain. Snow covers the land. The father and mother of the family are in sleds hitched to reindeer. On the right is the tent, which a young man is mending. Under the tent, various people are going about their work: a young mother is looking after her child; an old woman is preparing coffee. In the distance, a hunter descends the steep mountain slope on snow skates with the help of a shod stick. On the other side are two other groups: one depicting a marriage proposal in Vermland, in the middle of the summer season; the other is a Dalecarlian scene, composed of seven figures, a reproduction of Amalia Lindegren's Last Bed of the Girl.

Spain has a very fine ethnographic exhibition. Leaving the Scandinavian room, one crosses a corridor whose wall is covered with frescoes by Goya; the other corridor is decorated with photographs, types and modern costumes of the Spanish provinces. In the hall itself, Spain has displayed the arms and armour of its kings, princes and heroes. On a pedestal in the centre of the square is Charles V. All around is the admirable collection of the Armeria Real, including armour claimed to have belonged to Christopher Columbus, Philip III, Alfonso of Aragon and Ferdinand V. The showcases contain historical helmets, among which we highlight that of Boabdil, the last Moorish king of Granada, with whom the power of the Moors in Spain perished. In this room we also find Flemish furniture, pottery, fabrics and tapestries dating from the Spanish domination.

Next comes Belgium, with its sculpted furniture and old woodwork, its tapestries; some fine ceramic specimens, including a dish from the Urbino factory and a Hispano-Moorish vase with metallic reflections; enamels from Limoges; a few pieces of goldsmith's and silversmith's art; a few bronzes; tapestries from Flanders and Brussels; priestly ornaments; musical instruments.

After Belgium, and without further transition, Oceania, America and Africa follow in some of its parts. We cannot detail this exhibition, which is made up of objects of the highest ethnographic interest, since they belong or have belonged exclusively to aborigines. They are mainly weapons and idols; ivories and engraved stones from South America; pottery; terracotta from Mexico; artistically worked jewellery from Bogota, the country of the Achantis; sculptures from New Zealand and the Solomon Islands; musical instruments, etc.

Then we come to Japan, whose ethnographic exhibition does not differ very much from its industrial exhibition, except that the latter betrays the increasing tendency of that country towards Western civilisation. Nor does China show any appreciable difference between its retrospective and its modern exhibition. We have, however, to mention a number of objects brought back from China, Korea, Japan and India by M. Emile Guimet, manufacturer, music composer and traveller; vases, bronzes, furniture, cloisonné enamels, ivories, etc., as well as the paintings of M. Régamey, his travel companion in the Far East. Several other people took part in this exhibition of the Far East, where everything can be seen, but where, we repeat, few things stand out from the known productions of these countries.

In the next room, there are curious specimens of Kmer art, borrowed from the Cambodian museum in Compiègne; then we move on to the Egyptian exhibition.

This exhibition is divided into four sections: Egypt of the Khalifs, Ancient Egypt, Modern Egypt, Equatorial Egypt. It will be noted that the chronological order is not scrupulously respected here, otherwise we would start with ancient Egypt. However, this does not matter. In this section, dedicated to the productions of a sort of Egyptian Middle Ages, we notice architectural fragments, coins, glass weights, vases, mosaics and old marquetry. In the second room, we are in the middle of antiquity. On the walls, paintings reproduce various scenes of ancient Egyptian life. These date back almost six thousand years and give an idea of the level of civilisation in this country at that time. In the centre of the room are statues, busts, jewels, magnificent scarabs, various ornaments, idols, papyrus, etc., taken from the Boulaq Museum, of which Mariette-Bey, the organiser of this room, is the director. The third section is devoted to modern Egypt; here we find costumes, weapons, furniture, fabrics, carpets made in the last three centuries, as well as various weapons, tools and utensils. - Finally we come to equatorial Egypt, with its offensive and defensive weapons, its bizarre ornaments, its idols, its harnesses, its fabrics, its costumes, its musical instruments, its religious objects, its ivories, etc., etc.; all things brought back from recent journeys which have provided us with the first real light on the customs, uses and industry of these strange and often ferocious populations of central Africa.

We could only give a limited nomenclature of the innumerable objects exhibited at the Trocadero; and at the mere mention of so much accumulated wealth, it will be recognised that it was hardly possible to get away with much more than we have done. Nothing has ever been seen, let us repeat it, of more completeness in this genre, although we have easily noticed some inevitable gaps; and it will not be without regret that we will see our collectors take away, that is to say, disperse again so many marvellous things that we may never see again.

Music, too, had its share in this magnificent museum, and a considerable share at that.

The magnificent and curious musical instruments on display in the Trocadero, in the Retrospective Arts Gallery, form a very special and truly admirable collection which is well worth a look.

For a certain number of years, the taste for collections of musical instruments has been singularly widespread, and not only have the great States of Europe formed superb museums of this kind; but simple private individuals, amateurs, have taken a liking to these collections, and have assembled some which will certainly become famous and which will be, thereafter, of great use for the so interesting history of violin making and instrument making. Before Clapisson, whose beautiful collection of instruments formed the primitive nucleus of the beautiful museum of the Paris Conservatoire, one hardly heard of amateurs of this kind. However, about ten years ago, in a very small town in Belgium, in Renaix, I saw a very beautiful and numerous series of instruments of all kinds that a music-loving notary, Mr. César Snoeck, had been able to assemble with great intelligence; today it is much more numerous still, and has acquired great value. Since then, special museums of great importance and wealth have been created in Vienna, at the Soulh-Kensington-Muséum in London, and at the Brussels Conservatory. But, as I was saying, private individuals in all countries have joined in and are making terrible competition on the European market with official collectors and the curators of these museums.

We shall mention, among others, Mr. Alexandre Kraus, from Florence; Mr. Mahillon, a Brussels facteuV, who also exhibited at the Trocadero; then, in France, Mr. Tolbecque, whose collection is one of the most important known; Mr. Escosura, Mr. Loup, Mr. Bonjour, and a few others.

The French instrumental exhibition at the Trocadero contains no less than one hundred and fifty pieces, all admirable for their beauty, richness, and preservation, and of this number forty belong to M. Tolbecque, who is a very distinguished cellist and member of the Société des concerts du Conservatoire. Among these, one of the most precious is a marvellous harpsichord by Vincent Thibaut, dated 1679; Then come four charming clutches, a beautiful bass viol by Baker, a viola by Médard, two pretty violas d'amore, a 17th century lute, a superb theorbo by Renault and Châtelain, then guitars, sistra, organs, flutes, etc, organs, flutes, flageolets, and finally, as a rare curiosity, a folded harpsichord by Marius, who invented the piano mechanism in France, while Cristofori invented it in Italy and Schrœter in Germany.

Some extremely remarkable specimens of old violin making were exhibited by MM. Gallay (an incomparable bass viol), Chardon (a bass viol by Gaspar da Salo), Depret (a bass viol by Duiffoprugcar), Bonjour (several violins by Amali, by Joseph Guarnerius, violas by Rugger, by Bergonzi and Guadagnini, cellos by Stradivarius, Bergonzi and Rugger), de La Panouze (a violin by Guadagnini and a viola by Maggini), Garcin (a violin by Stradivarius and one by Pierre Guarnerius), etc.

In the rich showcases of this gallery, especially with regard to music, one could find precious autograph manuscripts by immortal artists. Among the objects thus exhibited by the Cherubini family, by Mrae Viardot, by the management of the Opera archives, I particularly noticed the autograph score of Mozart's Don Juan, those of Grétry's Caravane, of Glück's Armide, of Louis de Lully fils's Zéphyre et Flore, of Salieri's Tarare, and of Rameau's Stirprises de l'Amour. It is curious to compare the musical writings of these great men, and to see how the hand translates their thoughts.
But it is not only at the Trocadero that one can admire the musical manifestations of the Exhibition. The Champ de Mars is singularly interesting in this respect, and, for those who wish to see, offers much to learn. The reader will be grateful if we return to it, as some of the details are relevant to the subject at hand.
Without mentioning the instrument making, which is always extremely remarkable, music appears simultaneously in classes 6 and 7 (Elementary and Secondary Education), and in class 13 of group 2, which is specially assigned to it. After having contemplated, in the Italian section, the superb editions of the Ricordi house of Müan, which has long since become the master, and those of its two worthy rivals from the same city, the Lucca and Sonzogno houses, I wanted to examine the products of our French publishers, those who, in recent years, have made intelligent and happy efforts to put us in a position to compete effectively with the foreigners. In this respect, it can be said that three of them, Messrs. Lemoine, Leduc and Heugel, stand out in a particular way and have reached the top rank.

The Heugel exhibition is remarkable in many respects, both in its entirety and in its variety. First of all, an ingenious and undeniably useful novelty must be mentioned; I am referring to the giant edition, that is the word, of the music reading charts by Édouard Batiste. These charts, which apply to all methods, are engraved on wood and printed on parchment paper, like large geographical maps; they are no less than 2 metres high and 1.5 metres wide, and the notes that cover them are 6 to 8 centimetres high. Because of their fabulous size, they are intended to be placed in large classrooms in high schools, schools and orphanages, so that they can be read by more than a hundred pupils at a time. This is a really happy innovation.

The same company, which owns all the methods of the Conservatoire, exhibits the most admirable series of teaching works that can be assembled, and of which we regret not being able to give here a list that is too large. Next to the theoretical works are the technical publications, which we must also be content to mention in passing.

Finally, there are the great and noble collections of masterpieces, among which we find the Classical Concertante School, by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven; the Glories of Italy, by M. Gevaert, and the Italian Masters, by M. Alary; the Classical School of the Piano, by M. Marmontel; the varied transcriptions of the famous melodies of Schubert and Mendelssohn, by M. Gustave Lange; the superb Concertante Transcriptions, by Amédée Méreaux...

To all these important publications, which form a unique and imposing whole as far as musical education at all levels is concerned, one must add a precious collection of autograph manuscripts by the best pianist-composers, which, published under the title of Le Pianiste lecteur, is intended to familiarise pupils with the reading of manuscript music.

The Heugel house completes its general exhibition with an exhibition of a particular character, and which is not the least curious. I am referring to all the material made available by the publishers to the directors of French and foreign theatres, in relation to the dramatic works published by them: Hamlet, Mignon, Psyché, by M. Ambroise Thomas; the Perle du Brésil, by Félicien David, etc. This material deserves to be mentioned in particular because it is the most important of all. This material deserves to be quoted in detail, for it includes: score for large orchestra; separate parts for the orchestra; incidental music; score for singing and piano, for the study of the roles, with triple French, Italian and German text; chorus parts, in the three languages; complete French staging; staging of the ballet applied to the piano-solo score, for the study of the dance; finally, drawings of the costumes and scenery; all published with the greatest care and taste.

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878