Our Notes & References
First edition of one of the finest 19th-century plates illustrating Central Europe; Ukraine and the Crimea, lithographed by Auguste Bry, ‘Grande médaille d’or de S.M. L’Empereur de Russie’.
An unusual example extra-illustrated with plates in various states and some on china paper, with contemporary provenance: it belonged to Michel-Louis-Félix Ney, one of the sons of the celebrated French Marechal Ney, a close ally of Napoleon, 1st Duc d’Elchingen and 1st Prince de la Moskowa. He was a soldier and politician, member of the French parliament, before dying of cholera during the Crimean War, in the exact region depicted by Demidov’s work.
The extra plates include variations in the lettering and design of section titles (Valachie, pl. 9, and Crimée pl. 69), Bry’s address (rue Favart vs rue du Bac in pl. 42 for example), captions and paper (pl. 73 on china paper for example), as well various states of some portraits, including some before the letter (such as Demidov’s).
The descriptive text, as always, is for plates 1-87 only – the remaining plates being self-explanatory portraits of members of the expedition. De Sainson, Le Play, Huot, Leveille, de Nordmann, Rousseau and du Ponceau were Demidoff’s travelling companions on this journey through Russia, the Crimea, by way of Hungary, Wallachia and Moldavia and ending in Constantinople and Smyrna. The attractive plates show scenes typical of the life of the countries through which the travellers passed, forming a pictorial comment on each country, with figures in traditional costumes and local activities, as well as military scenes, a portrait of the Tsar Nicholas I and one of Demidoff himself.
The young and wealthy Count Anatolii Nikolaevich Demidov, later Prince of San Donato (1812-70), launched in 1837 at his own expense a scientific, chiefly geological, expedition to Ukraine and Crimea, acquired by the Russian empire a few decades earlier. Although Demidov led the expedition, the scientific aspects of the journey were supervised by the French naturalist Frederic Le Play, whilst the French draughtsman Denis Raffet was commissioned as the expedition’s artist, and Jules Janin wrote the official account.
The expedition lasted a little over four months during which time Raffet produced numerous sketches. He quickly determined to execute these as lithographs and on his return to France advised the Gihaut brothers of his intention to do so. The account was first published in 1840 in a much smaller format and with only 27 plates, while the full-scope publication was delayed by ten years, due to Raffet’s perfectionism. This however brought a superb result: Raffet’s images were a fascinating and detailed depiction of the people, landscape and architecture of a region little known to western Europeans at that time. The gypsies, Hungarians, Cossacks, Crimean Tartars and Crimean Karaims (Jews) are colourfully portrayed, while the quality of the images makes this publication as important a work of lithography as it is as an account of the expedition.
Ney (bookplate to upper pastedown)
Brunet II, 583; cf. Atabey 337 (for the smaller, 8vo edition of 1840).