Miles Harvey's new book, Painter in a Savage Land: The Strange Saga of the First European Artist in North America, attempts to rediscover this almost forgotten artist and to re-create his life and capture a sense of his contribution. As Harvey tells us, Le Moyne seemed to have had "a knack for survival.
Europe's first images of the New World - Los Angeles Times
They were starving by the time they washed up on the coast. He survived the brutal and bloody Wars of Religion in France, when most Protestant converts were either massacred or It seems likely that he settled in England and, Harvey convinces us, probable that he moved with the rich and powerful, who used his illustrations of plants as models for their embroideries. Le Moyne's work and reputation, however, were not quite so lucky. Miles Harvey tells us his own process of discovery and lets us recover this forgotten life much the way he did.
Although known by specialists for his narrative of his time in Florida, Le Moyne was remembered mostly as the artist whose paintings or sketches had become the basis for Dutch engravings of native life in the New World.
Le Moyne may indeed have created the only record we have of the daily life of native Floridians before they succumbed to the diseases introduced by the Europeans. After his return Le Moyne turned to botanical illustration, almost a century before that art form became popular.
Johns in the area of Fort Caroline. Le Moyne also accompanied several inland expeditions from Ft.
Caroline, and he made illustrations of many of the scenes he witnessed. Johns soon soured, in addition to which various members of the French party became disaffected, and revolted against their leaders. Augustine thirty miles to the south, attacked Laudonniere's stronghold at Fort Caroline. Having lost their way on the return, they sailed half starved into Swansea Bay, England in mid-November , and finally reached Paris early in Le Moyne's highly important account of this transatlantic voyage, known today from a Latin edition published in Frankfurt in by Theodore de Bry under the title 'Brevis narratio eorum quae in Florida Americai provincia Gallis acciderunt,' clearly indicates that it was the King who instructed the artist to accompany the expedition, headed by Jean Ribault and Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere, as official recording artist and cartographer.
Although only one original drawing by Le Moyne of an American subject is known today—the depiction of 'Athore showing Laudonniere the Marker Column set up by Ribault,' executed in watercolor and gouache on vellum, now in the New York Public Library—the 'Brevis narratio,' published by de Bry as the second volume of his great series of publications on voyages to the New World, contains forty-two engraved illustrations and maps alleged to have been made on the spot by Le Moyne.
The text by de Bry describes and analyses these images, and his book constitutes a major landmark in the literature of the early exploration of the Americas. Le Moyne fled France after the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of Huguenots in , ultimately settling in England. All but one of Le Moyne's original drawings were reportedly destroyed in the Spanish attack on Fort Caroline; most the images attributed to him are actually engravings created by the Belgian printer and publisher Theodor de Bry , which are based on recreations Le Moyne produced from memory.
These reproductions, distributed by Le Moyne in printed volumes, are some of the earliest images of European colonization in the New World to be circulated. Le Moyne died in London in , and his detailed account of the voyage, Brevis narratio eorum quae in Florida Americai provincia Gallis acciderunt , was published in A re-edition of his paintings including critical response has been published in by the British Museum.
The images of the Timucua and related maps, said to be based on Le Moyne's drawings by de Bry, have fallen under intense scrutiny and their legitimacy as works related to Le Moyne are considered very questionable. Jerald Milanich, author of books on the Timucua and an archaeologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History has published an article in which he questions whether Le Moyne produced drawings of the Timucua at all, based on the unexplainable lack of any definite documentation or evidence.
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