A Watercolor Album of the Mexican Campaign Acquired by Defense Ministry


23/4/14 - Acquisition - Historical Department of the French Defense Ministry - This highly colorful account of the French military campaign in Mexico (1862-1867), an eyewitness report in pictures with a good dose of humor, came up for auction at Audap & Mirabaud’s last 19 February at the Hôtel Drouot and sold for 29,000€ to the Service historique de la Défense. The work had already been placed on the block on 24 October 2010 at Saint Germain en Laye. This is an album of eighty-four watercolors and four drawing, most with legends, by an anonymous artist. The name of the Marquis of Blosseville has been suggested ; he was apparently an officer for the general staff with the French military expedition to Mexico, but this attribution is perhaps simply a family legend.


Album of the Mexican campaign
Siege of Puebla, 1863
Watercolor - 24 x 21 cm
Service historique de la Défense
Photo : Audap & Mirabaud

Album of the Mexican
First infantry battalion camping in the plaza.
An aspect of the Plaza de la Catedral in Puebla the morning of the occupation

Watercolor - 24 x 21 cm
Service historique de la Défense
Photo : Audap & Mirabaud


Mexico, at the time governed by Benito Juárez, was going through a period of political and financial instability, suspending its dept payments to various European countries : France, Spain and Great Britain which responded by sending in troops. Napoleon III saw it as an opportunity to impose a Catholic European sovereign, an ally of France in order to counterbalance the Protestant influence exerted by the United States. Archduke Maximilian of Austria was right in hesitating and made a dire mistake in accepting this role when he mounted the throne in 1864. The popular uprisings along with American pressure forced Napoleon III to withdraw his troops which returned home from Veracruz in February and March of 1867. The Emperor of Mexico was then executed on 19 June 1867, a scene which Manet illustrated magnificently.


Album of the Mexican
campaign
Tierras Calientes, 1862
Watercolor - 24 x 21 cm
Service historique de la Défense
Photo : Audap & Mirabaud

Album of the Mexican
campaign
A camp 1862
watercolor - 24 x 21 cm
Service historique de la Défense
Photo : Audap & Mirabaud


The watercolors in this album provide a veritable account of the events : the artist represents both battle scenes and everyday life with images evoking the capture of Puebla in 1863, the entrance into Mexico, the ships in the port of Tampico ; he describes the cities and their monuments such as Plaza de la Constitucion in Veracruz, illustrating camp life and the spirited Mexican horse riders, the atmosphere in Tierras Calientes... Some episodes concern Martinique, no doubt sketched during a stopover there.


Album of the Mexican
campaign
The Puebla garrison sent to Tierras Calientes.
Amosocase , internment in a corral for the night
, 1863
Watercolor - 24 x 21 cm
Service historique de la Défense
Photo : Audap & Mirabaud

Album of the Mexican campaign
The Paseo musicians retrun to Mexico playing the Crimean retreat, 1864
Watercolor - 24 x 21 cm
Service historique de la Défense
Photo : Audap & Mirabaud


Among other reports of the Mexican campaign, those of Jean Adolphe Beaucé (1818-1875) are better documented. He produced notably the Battle of Hierba Buena on 8 June 1865 painted after his return in 1868 (Paris, Musée de l’Armée). In fact, he followed the French army in several countries, notably Mexico, where he no doubt met up with Charles Dominique Lahalle, known as Oscar (1834-1909), who also painted military scenes and was a captain in the general staff of General Bazaine. Oscar exhibited A Card Dispute between Soldiers of the French Counterguerilla in Mexico in 1868 and A Council of War in a Tent in Mexico in 1870 ; his sketchbooks and manuscripts were auctioned in 2009 ; they include his memoires written in five notebooks, illustrated with many watercolors and drawings.

Version française


Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mercredi 23 avril 2014



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