Jean-Pierre-Eugène-Félicien Peytier (1793-1863) was a French engineer and Army officer. He entered the Polytechnic School in 1811 and the corps of Engineers and Geographers in 1813, becoming a lieutenant in 1817 and a captain in 1827. He worked assiduously on the geodetics for preparing the map of France. A pioneer mountaineer, he was the first to climb several peaks of the Pyrenees, during the time he was in charge of triangulating the area.
When Ioannis Capodistrias was in Paris in October 1827, he asked the French government to provide him with French military officials to act as advisors for the organization of the Greek Army. Thus, on the recommendation of the French Ministry of War, Peytier and three other officers arrived in Greece, in order to train young Greek engineers who would undertake surveying projects, while Peytier himself was to draw the plans for the city of Corinth and the map of the Peloponnese. The work of this Military Mission was complemented by that of the French Scientific Expedition to Greece (1829-1832), the first systematic attempt by an organized team of scientists to study and map Greek territory. Peytier became an official member of the Scientific Expedition in January 1829, in charge of the geodetic works for the map, while concurrently carrying out an important part of the topographical delineations. Although he became ill with fever five times, Peytier remained in the Peloponnese (Morea) in order to complete his work. In April 1831, the triangulation of the Peloponnese had been completed and Peytier, having gained a wealth of data, experience and knowledge of the territory, departed for France. Once home, he worked in the French War Archive, where he was responsible for coordinating the project of drawing the map of the Peloponnese, which was completed in 1832.
In 1833, the Greek government officially expressed its wish that the whole of Greek territory be mapped by French geographers at the Greek State’s expense. Captain Peytier disembarked at Navarino for the second time, and arrived in Athens in April 1833. Over the next three years, despite the hardships of living in the countryside, disease, bandits, an enormous workload (which included the triangulation, topographical delineation and census of the population in Central Greece and Euboea) and complaints about the remuneration, Peytier showed the same consistency and diligence in collecting the necessary material in order to map the Greek State.
Peytier was recalled to France in March 1836. He worked on his material and supervised the works for the publication of the great map of Greece of 1852. At the same time, he contributed articles to various periodicals on geodetic and topographical matters related to the Peloponnese and Central Greece. From 1839 onwards he worked also on the map of France. He became director of the War Archive and was promoted to the rank of colonel in 1852. He died in 1864, aged seventy.
This Album was compiled by Peytier himself and includes his pencil drawings, sepias and watercolours depicting city views, monuments, costumes and people. Peytier seems to prefer Byzantine churches and mosques to Classical ruins. His artistic style is rare for his time, as he avoids idealization and instead promotes fidelity and precision, as an observant scientist and topographer. In all his works a rare sense of colour is evident, while a strain of discreet humour is discernible in many of them. Without exception the plates with Turkish and Egyptian subjects are copies from other works, as Peytier never travelled to Ottoman or Egyptian territories but probably intended to publish an Album on the East.
The edition includes a documented introduction and commentaries by Stelios Papadopoulos and Agapi Sarakatsani, while the original Album is the property of Stephanos Vagliano from Zacynthos.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou