This fascinating volume contains fifty-nine pages of drawings by Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, with about one hundred and seventy different illustrations of peoples and costumes from around the world. The artist was the son of André Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, who was the secrétaire du gouverneur de Nouvelle-France, Canada and afterwards the French consul in Trieste and Venice. Though born in Canada, Jacques returned to France in 1764 to continue his studies at the Jesuit college of Sainte-Barbe, and followed in his father's footsteps, entering the French diplomatic service.
A renowned editor, writer and engraver, between 1784 and 1810 he published some twenty books, including the Voyages pittoresques dans les quatre parties du monde ou troisième édition de L’Encyclopédie des voyages, to which the present drawings are related. The publication appeared in 1806, in two volumes, and included one hundred and sixty illustrations, each one representing a woman and a man from a different part of the world, in their traditional costumes. Grasset de Saint-Sauveur's drawings for the publication were engraved by La Chaussée.
In the present album, still in its original binding with a printed label on the spine reading Dessins origineaux, fifty-eight different populations are represented, generally with illustrations of costumes of both men and women, with inscriptions beneath identifying their country of origin and in some cases with longer annotations describing their different characteristics. The subjects of the watercolors include costumes from Europe (Greece, Corfu, Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Cephalonia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Germany, Macedonia, Sweden, Finland, Georgia, Salamanca, Navarre, Portugal, Holland, Poland, Lapland), the Middle East and Asia (Jerusalem, Philippines, Moluccas, Ceylon, China, Japan, Kamtchatka, Siberia, Persia, Tartary), Africa (Madasgascar, Senegal), and America and the Pacific (Acadia, Quebec, California, Patagonia, Chile, Peru, Terra del Fuego). Some of the drawings correspond very closely to the printed image of the Voyages pittoresques, and bear almost exactly the same written text: see for instance pages 6, l’homme de Murcie (Spain) and 59, l’homme de Laponie (Lapland). A number of drawings, however, such as the Chinois combatant or the Fille de l'isle de Santorin, show interesting pentimenti in black chalk in some details of the costumes or in the precise positioning of the figures.
The scientific interest in ethnography that these drawings represent flourished in France in the late 18th century, but Grasset de Saint-Sauveur's publication covered a rather wider geographical range than most of its predecessors. In particular, the images of the residents of North America, including those of Acadia (page 3), Canada (page 7) and California (page 25), are some of the earlier published representations of the populations of these regions.
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