Lancelot Théodore Comte de Turpin de Crissé
THE ACROPOLIS IN ATHENS
Oil on canvas (relined). 110,5 x 161,5 cm.
T. Turpin 1804.
Marie-Gabriel-Florent-Auguste Comte de Choiseul-Goffier (1752-1817), Paris. – Auction Louis Jean Joseph Dubois, Paris, Hôtel de Marbœuf, 20.7.1818 ("Catalogue d’antiquités égyptiennes, grecques, romaines et celtiques; copies d’antiquités; modèles d’édifices ancien; sculptures modernes; tableaux; dessins; cartes; plans; colonnes; tables et meubles précieux, formant la collection de feu M. le Cte de Choiseul-Gouffier"), lot 339: "Vue du Parthénon, à Athènes. Par M. le comte de Turpin. E. Hauteur, 1 mètre 11 cent. (5 pieds 4 pouces) Largeur, 1 mètre 61 cent.( 4 pieds 10 pouces)“. - Christie´s, New York 12. 2.1998, lot 5.- Private collection, West Germany.
The present painting of the Parthenon Temple an Athen's Acropolis shows the possibly best known architectural monument of Greek antiquity that after its troubled history still exists in part today. As a temple for the city's goddess Pallas Athena the construction ordered by Pericles was begun in 447 b.c. In an unusually short construction time the monumental temple could already be completed in 438, while the elaborate decoration took until 433 b.c. at least. For nearly one thousand years the Parthenon remained almost completely intact.
Beginning at mid-fifth century when the temple was being changed into a Christian church, first alterations took place by adding an apsis and removing the interior pillars. With the conversion into a mosque after the conquest of Athens by the Osman rulers in 1456, a minaret was added. However, the most severe catastophe in the history of the Acropolis was the explosion of the Osman gunpowder storage inside the Parthenon on September 26, 1687, causing the entire roof to collapse and serious damage to the building not in use since.
The originals of the elaborate marble sculptures from the Parthenon's interior and exterior are now in the recently opened Acropolis Museum, in the Louvre and in Copenhagen. A major part of the building sculpture has been kept in the British Museum in London since the early 19th century. They are the famous "Elgin Marbles", brought by Lord Elgin (Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine) to Great Britain between 1801 and 1804, as British Ambassador to Constantinople and with permission of the Sultan, among them almost half of the surrounding frieze and 14 of the 92 Metope reliefs.
Our painting shows the Parthenon still with the original Elgin Marbles that were removed only a short time before. The painting would be one of the last views with architectural detail as preserved in situ. It documents the small domed mosque that was installed after the explosion 1687 in the interior of the now open temple, and later removed in the course of restoration in the 19th century.
The large-scale vedute by the French painter Lancelot-Theodore Comte de Turpin de Crissé is furthermore important testimony to the enthusiasm for Greece in the 18th century that reached its peak in the philhellenic movement supporting the fight for freedom by Greeks against the Turks, beginning in 1821. This freedom fight, in which Lord Byron among others participated, ended in 1830 with the London Protocol establishing an independent Greek Kingdom.
Since the 18th century, Greece gained in importance as travel destination. Not only members of the nobility and artists as part of their cavalier's or study travels visited Greece in addition to Italy and France, but the middle class having attained wealth were taking extended study tours to the origin of Greek antiquity. Turpin de Crissé undertook his first European travels to Switzerland, Italy and possibly to Greece, with the assistance of the Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, who had been in Greece in 1776 already, and helped the young artist to his first commissions. Our paintings of the Acropolis may be a commission by the Comte. Turpin de Crissé exhibited in the Salon 1806, a view of the Minerva temple in Athens, its whereabouts now unknown, probably commissioned by Choiseul-Gouffier. A steep career followed at the court of Napoleon where Turpin de Crissé in 1809 was appointed Chamberlain to the Empress Josephine who then acquired one of his paintings of the view of Civita Castellana. Turpin de Crissé's paintings became highly appreciated after that and were generously paid for. Together with Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Turpin de Crissé worked on an album to commemorate the coronation of Charles X. In New York's Metropolitan Museum a drawing by Ingres exists with a portrait of Turpin de Crissé. From 1835 on, the painter exclusively concentrates on his extensive collection consisting of Egyptian sculpture, coins, but also paintings by his contemporaries. He leaves this collection to the town of Angers where it is open to the public since 1889 at Hotel Pincé as Musée Turpin de Crissé.