BLOUET, Guillaume-Abel. Expédition scientifique de Morée, Ordonnée par le Gouvernement français: Architecture..., vols I-VI, Paris, Firmin Didot, 1831-1838.


The French architect Guillaume Abel Blouet (1795-1853) was born to a humble family in the environs of Paris. The only information known about his youth is that he started taking evening classes in drawing at the age of thirteen, and that he was fascinated by this art. Later on, he made the acquaintance of young student of architecture A. Macquet, who undertook to teach him the fundamentals of that discipline. Blouet had problems with mathematics and Latin, but was passionate about archaeology and drawing.

Despite his financial difficulties, he was accepted into the department of architecture of the Paris School of Fine Arts in 1814. Thanks to his perseverance and tenacity, and contrary to the established tradition, according to which Fine Arts students came from well-off families of prominent artists, Blouet was successful in his studies, and in 1821 won the Prix de Rome scholarship, which enabled him to study in Rome for four years. In 1828, after publishing his study on the restoration of the Thermae of Caracalla, Blouet was appointed head of the Architecture and Sculpture Section of the French Scientific Mission in the Morea.

After the expedition had ended and the outcomes of its investigation published, Blouet went on a tour of the United States and from 1836 studied and worked on the subject of prison architecture. In 1846 he became professor of the History of Architecture and in 1850 he joined the Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1828, France set up a Scientific Mission to the Peloponnese. The Mission accompanied the French Expedition of the Morea under general Maison, which had been sent to Greece to enforce a truce between the Ottoman and Greek armies. It was created according to the model of the Napoleon's Scientific Mission in Egypt (1798-1801).

Thus the Scientific Mission was comprised of three sections, Natural History, Architecture and Sculpture and Archaeology, under the direction of naturalist, geographer and topographer J.B.G.M. Bory de Saint-Vincent. Blouet was in charge of Architecture and Sculpture, and his team included architects A. Ravoisé and Α. Poirot, sculptor J. B. Vietty and philologist Fr. de Gournay.

They were directed to locate the ancient remains and sites described by Pausanias and Strabo as well as Pouqueville and William Gell, and to draw maps and topographical drawings, delineate the antiquities, study the ancient materials of construction, and record their itinerary and their observations on the natural environment.

In spite of the difficulties and adversities faced by the Expedition, from March 1829 to January 1830 Bory De Saint Vincent and his collaborators achieved to collect and present the relevant material with astonishing speed and punctuality, responding fully to the demands of the French authorities. The outcomes were published in a series of volumes.

The Section of Architecture and Sculpture toured the Peloponnese, Cyclades islands and Attica. Despite the fact that three of five team members became ill and had to return to France in May 1829, Blouet and his assistant Ravoisé pursued and completed their assignment. The outcome of their investigation was published in three monumental volumes (1831, 1843, 1838), which became a work of reference to all subsequent researchers.

The expedition toured and delineated monuments and sights in the following locations: Navarino, Methoni, Koroni, Petalidi, Nissi, Androusa, ancient Messene, Arcadia (Kyparissia), Samiko, Olympia (especially important are the drawings of the temple of Zeus on the site), Phigaleia, Gortyna, Karytaina, Lycosoura, Megalopolis, Leontari, Mystras, Sparta, Tegea, Mantineia, Tripolitsa, Argos, Tiryns, Mycenae, Nafplio, Epidaurus, Troezen, Kastri, Didyma. They subsequently toured Syros, Tinos, Myconos, Delos, Naxos, Paros, Antiparos, Milos and Aegina islands, and cape Sounion. In another tour of the Peloponnese, they visited Mycenae, Nemea, Corinth, Sicyon, Aigion, Patras, Palaiopolis, Arcadia, Methoni, Kalamata, Cape Tainaron, Gytheio, Monemvasia, Astros, Loukou, Epidaurus and Athens. The delineations were completed in the wider area of Attica (Piraeus, Eleusis and Megara).

It is important to note that the mission did not limit itself to the monuments of archaic and classical antiquity. It included in its investigation the Frankish castles, Byzantine and medieval churches, modern villages and natural environment. The work of the French Scientific Mission was a landmark in the study of Greek territory, and inaugurated the systematic scientific study of ancient monuments.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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  • BLOUET, Guillaume-Abel. Expédition scientifique de Morée, Ordonnée par le Gouvernement français: Architecture..., vols I-VI, Paris, Firmin Didot, 1831-1838.