FORBIN, Louis Nicolas Philippe Auguste, Comte de. Voyage dans le Levant, Paris, De l'Imprimerie royale, 1819.
Baron Louis Nicolas Philippe Auguste de Forbin, later count de Forbin (la Roque-d'Anthéron, 1777 – Παρίσι, 1841) was a French painter, author and antiquarian. He was also a pupil of painter Jacques-Louis David. During the Bourbon restauration, Forbin served as general director of the Louvre Museum and other museums of France.
Inspired by the travels of François-René de Chateaubriand, Forbin sailed out from Toulon on 22 August 1817 to tour the eastern Mediterranean. Like Chateaubriand, Forbin travelled on his own initiative, without an order from the French government; however, since the aim of his journey was to discover Greek and Roman antiquities and to draw landscapes of the places he would visit, he was able to travel on the ships of the French fleet of the Levant (Flotte du Levant).
In his venture Forbin was accompanied by painters Pierre Prevost and Léon Matthieu Cochereau (also a pupil of David and a nephew of Prévost), as well as architect Jean-Nicolas Huyot. Abbé de Forbin-Janson, later bishop of Nancy, was also a member of the company for the first part of the journey, while Huyot had to retire when he fractured his leg on Milos island. In addition, twenty-four year old Cochereau died of dysentery off the coast of Cythera and was replaced by Linant de Bellefonds who at the time was a mate on "Cleopatra", the mission's ship. De Bellefonds resigned from his position on the ship and participated in the expedition as a painter and chartographer. When the expedition ended in December of 1817, de Bellefonds decided to stay on in Egypt, and explored its territory as member of several missions. From 1831 to 1869 he served the kingdom of Egypt as chief engineer of several public works, including the Suez Canal.
The expedition sailed to Acre, Galilee, and thenceforth travelled by land. While in Palestine, the travellers visited the Dead Sea and Jordan river, reached Cairo and sailed the Nile down to Upper Egypt. The main places they visited includde Milos island, Athens, Constantinople, Ephesus, Acre, Jerusalem, Gaza, Damietta, Cairo, Luxor, Thebes, Rosetta and Alexandria. When the expedition returned to France in April 1818 Forbin had spent approximately 28.000 francs on the purchase and transportation of antiquities, some of which ended up in the Louvre collections (at the time Royal Museum of France). Prevost drew panoramic views of Jerusalem and Athens, but succumbed to pneumonia in 1823, without completing his panorama of Constantinople.
The descriptions of Forbin show him to be a mature observer in possession of deep humanistic culture. His style sometimes resembles a clumsy imitation of Chateaubriand's "Journey to the Holy Land" (1806). However, as Forbin was not a professional author but a painter, his descriptions are way more exact than those of Chateaubriand.
Forbin also travelled to Sicily in 1820, and published his travel account, as he had done with his expedition of 1817.
Forbin, Auguste (comte de). Sterne à Paris, ou le voyageur sentimental, Comédie, (Paris: Chez le libraire au Théâtre du Vaudeville, 1800).
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Forbin, Auguste (comte de). Travels in Egypt: being a continuation of the Travels in the Holy Land, in 1817-18 (London: Sir R. Phillips and Co., [1820;])
Forbin, Comte de. Voyage dans le Levant en 1817 et 1818, / par M. le Cte. de Forbin. (Paris: Delaunay, 1819)
Forbin, Auguste (comte de). Souvenirs de La Sicile, (Paris: de l’Imprimerie Royale, 1823).
Angrand, Pierre. Le comte Forbin et le Louvre en 1819 (Lausanne, Paris: La Bibliothèque des Arts, 1972)
Classen, Albrecht (ed.). East Meets West in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times: Transcultural Experiences in the Premodern World (Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter, 2013)
Foster, Charles. Travellers in the Near East (London: Stacey International, 2004)
Grinhard, Olivier. "Un émule de Chateaubriand : le comte de Forbin, voyageur et écrivain" in Chateaubriand en Orient : Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem. 1806–1807, edited by Maison de Chateaubriand (Châtenay-Malabry) ; Troublé, Véronique. (Châtenay-Malabry : Maison de Chateaubriand, 2006)
Michaud, Louis Gabriel. Biographie des hommes vivants ou Histoire par ordre alphabétique, (Paris: Chez L. G. Michaud, 1817), vol. III. 122
Written by Nicolas Nicolaides
- FORBIN, Louis Nicolas Philippe Auguste, Comte de
- FORBIN, Louis Nicolas Philippe Auguste, Comte de. Voyage dans le Levant, Paris, De l'Imprimerie royale, 1819.
View of the ancient theatre of Milos island.
Entrance to the bazaar of Athens.
The Byzantine Hippodrome of Istanbul. At the centre, the obelisk of Theodosius I.
Ottoman woman having coffee in her garden.
The Gate of Persecution at Ephesus. At the top of the arch, spolia of ancient sarcophagus.
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