Morgues, Jacques le Moyne de (?-1588)
Jacques le Moyne de Morgues (?-1588)
Travels. The French artist Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, a draftsman, painter, and engraver, accompanied a 1564 French Huguenot expedition to Florida led by the explorer René Goulaine de Laudonnière. Le Moyne’s remarkable watercolor studies, unusual due to their rich ethnographic detail, are among the first European depictions of North America. Upon his return to Europe these sketches served as the basis for engravings to illustrate a history of his voyage. Thus le Moyne de Morgues was instrumental in the spread of American imagery in the Old World.
Artistic Training. Le Moyne de Morgues trained as a cartographer in the great French mapmaking tradition. He learned not only how to execute maps but also the skills of drawing and painting. In contrast to modern conceptions of cartography, early modern maps included not just geographical information but depictions of the region’s flora, fauna, and inhabitants. Thus le Moyne de Morgues was the perfect traveler-artist to accompany an expedition to North America. The abstraction and preciousness of his style reveal the influence of the French Mannerist school, as does the primarily pastel palette. After the 1564 expedition to North America the artist returned to Europe, dying in London in 1588.
Extant Sketch. Despite the importance of le Moyne de Morgues’s work for the history of North America, only one original painting by his hand seems to have survived. Scholarly assessment of his artwork has been necessarily based on study of the copies after his work in the forms of prints and sketches. The only extant original painting by the artist probably dates from after his return to Europe. It depicts the 1564 encounter between the French explorer Laudonnière and the Native American chief Athore of the Timucua in northern Florida. Both figures stand before a column at the mouth of the St. John River near present-day Jacksonville, having just exchanged gifts. The column, which displays the arms of France, was erected by Jean Ribault in an earlier 1562 expedition. Native Americans kneel before it reverently, having adorned it with flowers and leaves. The political message of the image is clear: the indigenous population seems to have eagerly embraced French colonial rule. Within a year of the 1564 encounter, however, the Spanish arrived in the area, murdering all the French colonists. They claimed the land for Spain, founding the city of St. Augustine, and French colonization of Florida came to an end.
E. Bénézit, éd., Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs de tous les temps et de tous les pays par un groupe d’écrivains spécialistes français et étrangers (Paris: Librairie Grund, 1976);
Hugh Honour, The New Golden Land: European Images of America from the Discoveries to the Present Time (New York: Pantheon, 1975);
John Wilmerding, American Art (Harmondsworth, U.K. & New York: Penguin, 1976).
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