DU MONCEL, Théodore
Théodose Achille Louis Vicomte du Moncel (1821-1884) was born in Paris, descendant of a noble family of Normandy. Besides being a proficient painter and engraver, he distinguished himself mainly as a scientist, specialized in electricity and mathematics. As a young man, in 1844, he made a tour of Greece, where he confidently made drawings of archaeological sites, monuments and cities. He started out on his journey from Venice in November 1843. From Greece he went on to Constantinople, and on his return trip he visited Malta, Messina and Naples.
Du Moncel published a deluxe large-format album with lithographs of excellent quality, which cover the whole of his itinerary. Another edition included eighteen wood engravings from his "Excursion par terre d’ Athènes à Nauplie". There is also another album, with fourteen lithographs from Athens. The plates, all drawn and engraved by Du Moncel himself, are accompanied by explanatory texts and descriptions of the images, while the human figures depicted for decorative effect are almost always the work of another artist. Du Moncel exhibited his paintings from his journey to the East in the annual Paris "Salons" from 1846 to 1851, and also sold them to support himself.
From 1846 Du Moncel held a state position as an electrical engineer. He wrote treatises and articles on the science of electricity, became a member of the Academy of Sciences, was a founder-member of the Société Nationale des Sciences Naturelles et Μathématiques de Cherbourg and was decorated as officer of the "Légion d’ Honneur".
Du Moncel belongs to the last current of European artists eager to have direct experience of the remains of the ancient world. At the same time, modern life finds a place in their works and their diaries, more in the form of picturesque details and usually with negative comments, while the memory of recent historical events is imprinted in the text, if not in the images themselves.
Du Moncel also documents his observations on antiquities with citations from ancient authors or from reliable travel testimonies, such as of R. Chandler, J. Stuart, N. Revett, F.C.H.L. Pouqueville, C. Wordsworth and the Expédition Scientifique de Morée. However, he is a Frenchman of the Restoration and his fixation on the European model, his opposition to any hint of liberalism, drive him to view modern Greek reality in a negative light. The adversities of travel, the unfamiliar landscape and the different way of life become the object of unfavourable and scathing remarks. However, the clear lines of his drawings highlight the monuments, which are always in perfect harmony with their natural environment.
Written by: Ioli Vingopoulou