1757. Plan: 535 by 735mm (21 by 29 inches); View: 290 by 790mm (11.5 by 31 inches). Manuscript plan of the bay of Rio de Janeiro in pen and ink with wash, signed “Breteuil fecit”, offered together with a pen and ink prospect of Rio de Janeiro, both dissected and mounted on canvas.
Louis Charles Auguste le Tonnelier, baron de Breteuil, baron de Preuilly (1730-1807) was a French aristocrat, diplomat, statesman and politician. He was the last Prime Minister of the Bourbon Monarchy, appointed by King Louis XVI only one hundred hours before the storming of the Bastille.
Breteuil was born in 1730 at the chateau of Azay-le-Ferron into a well-connected aristocratic family. He was educated in Paris before joining the army, where he served under Thomas Arthur, comte de Lally, baron de Tollendal (1702-1766) in his ill-fated command of the French forces in India during the Seven Years’ War. With orders to join the French forces that were fighting the English in India, Lally and Breteuil sailed from France on 2 May 1757 on a fleet of 6 boats leased by the Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes orientales under the command of Vice Admiral Anne Antoine, Comte d’Aché (1701-1780). During the voyage, an epidemic forced the fleet to put in at Rio de Janeiro for six weeks. The Portuguese, neutral in the conflict between France and England, initially refused access to the city. It is likely that the present plan and prospect were drawn up during this hiatus, perhaps in contemplation of emulating Du Guay-Trouin’s previous exploits. Indeed, the text states that the map is based upon a plan made during the expedition of “Mr Duguay” (Du Guay-Trouin), together with corrections. It also indicates that the plan was made in conjunction with a prospect of the city (presumably the accompanying view offered here) and states that the plan and its companion view may be relied upon as accurate.
The plan is titled “Plan of the Rio de Janeiro Bay and its Defenses”, and is signed in at the bottom right “Breteuil fecit”. A manuscript legend towards the right of the plan lists the following:
The City; 2 The Benedictines; 3. Fort St Sebastien Fort; 4. The Parish City; 5. The Jesuits; 6. The Franciscans; 7. The aqueduct; 8. Fort Mercy; 9. Island of the goats and snakes; 10. Bishop’s residence; 11 Fort Conception; 12. Aqueduct; 13. Submerged sand bank; 14. Island and fort of the city of Gagnon; 15. The harbour; 16. Island and Fort Delage; 17. Fort St Jean; 18. Fort St Theodore; 19. Fort Santa Cruz; 20. Battery Delapre Vermek; 21. Submerged sand bank; 22. Chapel and Battery of Notredame of her travels; 23. Battery; 24. Oil Manufacture of Baleine Pt Leroy.
The prospect, or view, is itself inscribed “realised for the Comte de Breteuil”, thereby re-enforcing the pairing of the two images, and the text towards the lower right of the image remarks: “This Bay has 8 deep-water anchorages. Two link the Fort Santa Cruz to Rio de Janeiro. Our troops and our crew are camped in San Domingo, which faces that city. This view is busy with our vessels. The parts that went imperfectly have been corrected while travelling through the Bay, placing here objects that perspective wouldn’t admit.”
Inside a large text box at the lower right, the following are identified:
“A. The City B. Government C. Public Fountain D. Small Vessel in Construction E. [Orphanage] “Mercy to the Found Children” F. Fort of Mercy G. Jesuits H. Fort St Sebastian J. Island of the Goats K. Fort of the Conception and Levesche L. Anchorage of the Portuguese Fleet M. Old Parish N. College O. Aqueduct P. Customs Q. St Claire R. Notre Dame de Gloire S. Batterie Theodore T. Battery St Jean V. Fort X. Fort Villegayen Y. Island and Fort of Laage Z. Vessel greeting the Fort n1 Fort Santa Cruz n2 The six vessels of the French fleet.”
Correa do Lago, in his catalogue of the collection of Olavo Setuval – ‘Brasiliana Itau’ – includes a chapter dedicated to drawings and watercolours. In this he describes a 1760 prospect of the city by Blasco (‘Propescto da cidade do Rio de Janeiro vista da parte norte da Ilha das Cobras’) as “the most detailed and complete panorama of the eighteenth century”. The next oldest prospect in the Setuval collection is dated 1795. Further, no comparable prospects are to be found in the Colecao Brasiliana Fundacao Estudar.
Provenance: Bibliothèque des ducs de Luynes, Château de Dampierre, France.
References: see Lally, Thomas Arthur (Comte de), ‘Memoirs of Count Lally, from his embarking for the East Indies…‘, London, 1766, p.183.