Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Outina Sells for €160,000

Outina, 58.5 x 42.5 cm, by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues?  Photo: La Dépêche.
An ink and watercolour drawing depicting Outina, the Timucua chief (fl.1564-1565), and attributed to Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1533-1588) has just sold at auction in Toulouse for a staggering €160,000.  It had been estimated at a more modest but still impressive €50,000/80,000.  Local paper La Dépêche reported before and after the sale; a presale video can also be viewed. 

There is no question as to the correspondence between this figure and the one which appears on Plate XVIII of Theodore de Bry's Grand voyages (1591), accompanying an account of the Jean Ribault and René Goulaine de Laudonnière's ill-fated attempt at colonizing northern Florida in 1564.  This plate is one of 42 engravings, many of which show Timucua-speaking men and women who lived in northern Florida and southern Georgia, made after sketches by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues. Compare for yourselves:

BTW, De Bry explains this scene thus : "The women whose husbands have succumbed in battle or have died from illness have the custom of assembling on a day that seems to them most suitable to appear before their king. They approach him, overcome with grief, sit down on their heels, and covering their faces with their hands, they cry out and moan. They ask the king to avenge their dead husbands, to provide them with means to live during their widowhood and to permit them to remarry after the time laid down by law. The king, taking pity on them, grants their requests. They return home, weeping and wailing, as proof of the love they felt for their husbands. After having spent several days in mourning they carry their husbands' weapons and drinking cups to their tombs, then they start to weep again and celebrate other funereal ceremonies."
Correspondence between the two images notwithstanding, does that mean that the auctioned image is necessarily one of Le Moyne's lost original sketches?  Might it not be a mere copy of Le Moyne's original?  Or a copy done after the engraving?  The fact that the images mirror each other is a tantalizing hint that the watercolour is not merely derived from the engraving, and that it may indeed be the model... or a copy of the model. 

The trouble with the auction business is that it is a business.  Whatever research goes into identifying and documenting a lot is proprietary, and it is seldom made public.  In hyping this particular artwork, the auctioneer and the reporters after him rather conveniently glossed over the possibility that this piece may not be by the hand of the master himself, and they also conveniently occulted the fact that the very nature and authenticity of Le Moyne's work are, in fact, highly disputed by scholars.  Eminences such as  Christian Feest and Jerald Milanich have questioned whether Le Moyne produced drawings of the Timucua at all, given the absence of any definite documentation and the hard-to-explain presence on those images of what look to be Pacific seashells and Brazilian clubs.  At the very least, Le Moyne took liberties with his illustrations, perhaps considerable ones.  Milanich concluded that : "Until someone finds an actual, documented le Moyne drawing or painting of Florida Indians, I am going to assume we have been duped."  I wonder what he and Feest make of this latest find.  Is this the real deal?


Sunday, December 7, 2014

La France vend son consulat à Québec

La Maison Kent.  Photo: Encyclopédie du
Patrimoine culturel de l'Amérique française.

La Maison Kent, célèbre bâtiment du Vieux-Québec acheté en 1980 par la France pour y installer son consulat général, juste à côté du Château Frontenac, vient d'être vendue pour 2,75 millions de dollars, selon les sources du journal La Presse.  

Ben que nommée en l’honneur du prince Edward Auguste, futur duc de Kent et fils du roi George III, qui y a habité entre 1791 et 1794, cette maison remonte à la fin du XVIIe siècle.  Construite par les Chartier de Lotbinière, il s'agit de l'un des plus anciens édifices de la ville.  Il n’était cependant plus adapté à l’accueil du public des services consulaires, qui déménageront dans un immeuble plus fonctionnel.  Le groupe parlementaire France-Québec à l’Assemblée nationale déplore cette cession d’une maison faisant partie du « patrimoine historique du Québec ».


Friday, December 5, 2014

A webcam to get your rocks off

As of late, naughty Francophones and Francophiles typing the keywords "webcam" and "la belle" into their search engine may be disappointed to come across a jolie demoiselle of a rather unexpected sort.  The good folks over at the Bullock Museum, in Austin, have set up a livestream showing the reconstruction of Cavelier de La Salle's ship, La Belle. 

The live build of La Belle is broadcast every Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Outside of these hours, they stream very interesting documentary teasers.  Check it out here.  And don't worry, it is entirely office-appropriate.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Village Noël Temiskaming

Village Noel Temiscaming sous le thème de la Nouvelle-France à New Liskeard.
Photo: Radio-Canada.
Pour la toute première fois cette année, la ville de Temiskaming Shores, dans le nord ontarien, non loin de là où les Français avaient à la fin du XVIIe siècle établi le Fort Témiscamingue, s'est organisé un marché de Noël, le "Village Noël Temiskaming".  Une centaine de producteurs, d'artistes et d'artisans du Temiskaming ontarien et de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue québécois, confortablement installés au centre-ville dans une série de maisonnettes chauffées, ont proposé leurs créations au public cette fin de semaine.  L'événement, qui a attiré plusieurs centaines de visiteurs, visait notamment à promouvoir la culture francophone en Ontario.  Quoi que ce genre de marché de Noël soit de tradition germanique, c'est en effet la Nouvelle-France qui a été retenue comme thématique de cette première édition.  Quelques comédiens costumés ont animé l'espace.  Pour l'édition 2015, les organisateurs entendent marquer le 400e anniversaire de la deuxième visite de Champlain en territoire ontarien.

Radio-Canada fait un bref compte rendu de l'événement.


Monday, December 1, 2014

What a surprise

Le nouveau pont qui enjambera le Saint-Laurent conservera... (Photo fournie par Infrastructure Canada)
Champlain Bridge II.  Courtesy of La Presse.
The federal government has spoken : the new bridge linking the Island of Montreal to the south shore of the St. Lawrence beginning in 2018 will be named... Pont Champlain.

La Presse and Le Devoir announced it on Saturday.  Now on to the real, serious bridge debate: to toll, or not to toll?


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Le Rocket vs. Le Père de la Nouvelle-France

Le chroniqueur humoristico-sportif Olivier Niquet commente dans sa chronique dans Métro, offrant "Sept raisons pourquoi Maurice Richard est meilleur que Samuel de Champlain".  Elles sont tellement bonnes que je ne peux résister à la tentation de les recopier in extensio :

1. Samuel de Champlain n’a jamais joué pour Canadien.

2. Samuel de Champlain n’a pas compté cinq buts après avoir déménagé de Honfleur à Québec. Il n’en a même pas compté un.

3. Maurice Richard, en participant à l’insu de son plein gré à la révolution tranquille, a rénové un Québec bâti tout croche sur les bases de Samuel de Champlain.

4. Samuel de Champlain a peut-être fondé Québec, mais Maurice lui, il a coaché les Nordiques. Pendant deux matchs. Mais c’est deux matchs de plus que Champlain.

5. Samuel de Champlain a fait la guerre aux Iroquois pendant 14 ans. Maurice Richard a fait la guerre aux Blackhawks pendant 18 ans.

6. Samuel de Champlain n’a jamais été nommé gouverneur de la Nouvelle-France alors que Richard a été capitaine de Canadien.

7. Samuel de Champlain patinait sur la bottine (selon des sources).
Ha!  Merci, Olivier Niquet.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Bridge Too Far

A digital rendering of the as-of-yet-non-existant "Maurice
Richard" or "Champlain" bridge.  Image: Infrastructure Canada.

On November 1st, it was announced that the federal government would likely name the new bridge which will be built across the St. Lawrence River, linking the Island of Montreal to the south shore, in honour of hockey legend Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Fine.  Trouble is, though, that this bridge is set to replace another one which has borne the name of Samuel de Champlain since 1962. 

Let's be clear: federal spokespeople insist that the name has not been finalized yet.  Still...  The rumour that the new bridge might be given a name other than Champlain's had been circulating for the last two years or so.  Because this is a federal bridge, the choice of its name rests with the federal -- i.e. Harper Conservative -- government.  You would think that they might have thought long and hard about the thorny politics of naming, and taken good care to consult widely, but no.  That is not the governing party's style.  Neither historians, nor experts in toponymy, nor provicincial nor local politicians, nor the people were consulted.  The announcement earlier this week that the federal Minister of Transport, Denis Lebel, prefers the name "Maurice Richard" was accordingly met with generalized outrage.

Henri Dorion, who has long presided over the Commission de toponymie du Québec, put it well: "Donner le nom d'un ouvrage d'une telle importance à un joueur de hockey, je n'en reviens pas. C'est comme dire que Maurice Richard est aussi important que Champlain."  Political scientist Alain-G. Gagnon also summed it up neatly, saying that « le ministre Lebel opte pour le spectacle plutôt que la longue histoire ».  Historian Denis Vaugeois too offered a thoughtful analysis of the situation, noting that a lot of important place names have been lost and gained over the years, and that if a new name was truly necessary, "Maurice Richard reste le moins pire des choix".  But it's rather strange, he points out, that the federal government seems to remember the Rocket's abundant goals, and not so much the massive rioting that was provoked by the intersection of his fame with tensions across the linguistic divide in 1950s Montreal. 

The governing Parti libéral du Québec tried to wash its hands of the whole affair at first, saying that the choice of name was up to the federal government, but now seems to have come around to condemning the imprudence of the likely choice.  Philippe Couillard, the provincial premier, deplored quite rightly that "Ce qui est regrettable dans cette polémique, c’est qu’on met en opposition un peu artificielle deux personnages importants pour des raisons différentes".

François Hollande, the president of France, who happens to be touring Canada this week, has meanwhile been alluding to Champlain in his speeches, but has not dared to enter the fray. 

My favourite comment though was by a commenter who wrote in to La Presse, joking that Americans have not yet thought it wise to rename Lake Champlain "Babe Ruth Lake".  Indeed. 

For a taste of the media storm, just type "Pont Champlain" or "Champlain Bridge" in GoogleNews and hang on tight.

Given the strength of the opposition and the federal's insistence that no official decision has been made yet, I expect that the old name will be retained for the new project.  Soon all of this will be... water under the Champlain bridge.  Groan.