Sunday, January 22, 2023

02 Works - Louis-François Cassas' visit to Lebanon, with footnotes

Louis-François Cassas (Azay-le-Ferron 1756-1827 Versailles)
The remains of the Temple of Jupiter and the Great Court at Baalbek, Lebanon
Pen, ink and watercolour on laid paper
61.6 x 93.3cm (24 1/4 x 36 3/4in)
Private collection

The Temple of Jupiter is a colossal Roman temple, the largest of the Roman world, situated at the Baalbek complex in Heliopolis Syriaca (modern Lebanon). The temple served as an oracle and was dedicated to Jupiter Heliopolitanus.

It is not known who commissioned or designed the temple, nor exactly when it was constructed. Work probably began around 16 BC and was nearly complete by about AD 60. It is situated at the western end of the Great Court of Roman Heliopolis, on a broad platform of stone raised another 7 m (23 ft) above the huge stones of the foundation, three of which are among the heaviest blocks ever used in a construction. Cultic activity had long taken place at the site; the temple presumably replaced an earlier one, possibly using the same foundation.

It was the biggest temple dedicated to Jupiter in all the Roman Empire. The columns were 19.9 meters high with a diameter of nearly 2.5 meters: the biggest in the classical world. It took three centuries to create this colossal temple complex. More on the Temple of Jupiter

Louis-François Cassas (Azay-le-Ferron 1756-1827 Versailles)
The Cedar Forests, Lebanon, c. 1805
Pen, ink and watercolour on laid paper
62.2 x 93.8cm (24 1/2 x 36 15/16in)
Private collection

The Cedars of God located in the Kadisha Valley of Bsharre, Lebanon, are one of the last vestiges of the extensive forests of the Lebanon cedar that anciently thrived across Mount Lebanon. All early modern travelers' accounts of the wild cedars appear to refer to the ones in Bsharri; the Christian monks of the monasteries in the Kadisha Valley venerated the trees for centuries. The earliest documented references of the Cedars of God are found in Tablets 4-6 of the great Epic of Gilgamesh, six days walk from Uruk. The Psalms of King David eg. "104:16" provide support to claims of the biblical creation story's proximity to the Cedars forest, firstly the planting of Cedars with Gods hands and secondly the name of an adjacent village in the Kadisha Valley known as Edhen (Eden).

The Phoenicians, Israelites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Arabs, and Turks used Lebanese timber. The Egyptians valued their timber for shipbuilding, and in the Ottoman Empire their timber was used to construct railways. 

The mountains of Lebanon were once shaded by thick cedar forests and the tree is the symbol of the country. After centuries of persistent deforestation, the extent of these forests has been markedly reduced. More on the Cedar Forests, Lebanon

Louis-François Cassas (June 3, 1756 – November 1, 1827) was a distinguished French landscape painter, sculptor, architect, archeologist and antiquary born at Azay-le-Ferron, in the Indre Department of France. 

In 1778 Cassas went to Rome, Venice, Naples and Sicily where he spent the first years of his youth in the study of ancient monuments. A commission in 1782 took him from Istria to southern Dalmatia, to make a series of illustrations of the antiquities on the east Adriatic coast. 

In 1784 he accompanied the Count Choiseul-Gouffier, the French Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, on his mission to Constantinople. Commissioned by him, he travelled from 1784 to 1787 engaged in making drawings for the Ambassador's second volume of Voyage pittoresque de la Grèce, published in 1809. He visited Egypt from October to December 1785, and drew the antiquities of Alexandria, the pyramids of Giza and the mosques of Cairo. Shortly afterwards he made several drawings of Palmyra, in the desert of Syria, visited the Holy Land and illustrated the ruins of Baalbec in Lebanon. He also painted Palestine, Cyprus and Asia Minor, drawing ancient Middle Eastern sites, many of which had never been recorded.

At the beginning of the French Revolution, the artist returned to France via Rome, arriving in Paris in 1792. The originals of his works in oil paintings for both voyages were deposited in the Bibliothèque Royale. 

At the turn of the eighteenth to nineteenth century, the artist had already combined his first observations of Egyptian monuments in a series of paintings which were very influential on many artists and stage designers in the early decades of the nineteenth century. He was appointed as drawing professor and later as General Inspector at the Gobelin Tapestry Manufactory, for contributing to the development of products from this factory.

He died in Versailles of a stroke of apoplexy, on November 1, 1827, invested with several orders of knighthood, including the Légion d'honneur, granted to him by the king on May 21, 1821. After his death Cassas was largely forgotten and his work was greatly neglected. In 1973, the government of Yugoslavia paid homage to Cassas issuing a postage stamp of the city of Split from one of his 1782 etchings called Vue de Spalatro et du Lazareth. More on Louis-François Cassas




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