TOULOUSE.- Holding the record for the highest auction realized in France for many years (sale of an imperial Chinese painting over 22 million euros in March 2011), Marc Labarbe, just makes another discovery that will be auctioned on December 3d in Toulouse and should this time be of interest to U.S. institutions.
It is an exceptional painting from the mid-16th century depicting "Outina Chief Timucua" attributed to Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1533-1588), draftsman and cartographer of King Charles IX of France, who accompanied the shipping in 1564 for founding a French and Protestant colony in Florida.
A capital testimony of the conquest of the New World
The historical descriptions of the lives of American Indians and native plants made by Le Moyne de Morgues are crucial. This painter is only known today by very few drawings that appear in museums (1) and demonstrates his talent, but the trace of his painted works is non-existent.
Specialists and curators from English and American museums and French experts have studied with great interest this painting they were able to identify with the engravings of Theodore de Bry (1528-1598) who used the works that Le Moyne de Morgues reproduced from memory. Indeed, the latter, who hastily fled Florida, had returned from his U.S. trip with some watercolor testimonials of fauna and flora now spread in various museums.
These editions from Theodore de Bry were at the time the first images of European settlement in the New World and helped popularize the arrival of the French in those regions.
Saved when moving Castle Medan farm in Yvelines (France) 40 years ago, this painting remained in the closet of the current owner, a client of the auction house, until he came to seek advice and expertise from Marc Labarbe.
The Historical context
Florida, discovered in 1513 by the Spaniard Juan Ponce de Leon, was first explored by the Spanish before that, in France, the chief of the Huguenots, Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, managed to convince King Charles IX that the future success of France depended on America.
In 1562, Coligny entrusted to Jean Ribaut, one of the best French navigators, the first shipment. A craze for the West Indies had raised in France, and the colonization of Florida was a strategic issue for France, to break the Iberian monopoly on the trade. In 1564, Le Moyne de Morgues accompanied the second expedition leading to the founding of Fort Caroline. He made the first map of French settlement in Florida.
The subject of the Painting
The works of Le Moyne de Morgues tell about the arrival of the French and their reception by the Timucuas. They describe the political organization and habits of the Indians; a meticulous attention paid to ethnographic truth.
He depicts here Outina, a Timuaca leader, who impresses Westerners by his muscles, his tattoos covering his entire body, his hair embellished with feathers and a raccoon tail, its inflated bladders of fish adorning his ears . His metal adornment and his staff gave him the look of a warrior protective of his territory looking down at Westerners small caravels
This painting is estimated 50,000/80,000 but should create surprise.
(1) Three albums of watercolors and miniature studies of plants and animals made by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1533-1588) are in museums, two dismembered are kept in London, at Victoria and Albert Museum and at the British Museum . The third is at the Garden Library in Washington.