Baradère: Antiquités mexicaines (1834)

Jean Henri Baradère’s luxurious in-folio publication Antiquités Mexicaines was first published in Paris in 1834 and can be considered as instrumental in the process of scientific and popular appropriation of Mexican cultural heritage in Europe. Showcasing documents and drawings from an earlier archaeological expedition, the publication opens with a dedication to the Mexican government. The first pages also include certificates of authenticity for the published material from both French and Mexican authorities and a letter from the Mexican president. This choice of documents adds a particular political interest to this monument to Mexican archaeology.

commented by Susana Stüssi Garcia

Original text    Translation   Brief biography    Commentary    Sources and literature

Au Congrès Général de la Fédération mexicaine

from: Henri Baradère (ed.), Antiquités mexicaines. Relation des trois expéditions du capitaine Dupaix, ordonnées en 1805, 1806 et 1807, pour la recherche des antiquités du pays, notamment celles de Mitla et de Palenque […], Paris 1834, vol. 1, pp. I–III, available online.

MESSIEURS,

Lorsque le Gouvernement mexicain me rendit possesseur des dessins originaux et des manuscrits qui forment le résultat des trois expéditions de Palenque et Mitla, il attendait de moi la publication de ces précieux documents. L’exemplaire que j’ai l’honneur d’offrir au Congrès prouve que ce n’est pas en vain que les Mexicains amis des sciences et des arts ont compté sur mon zèle.

Pénétré des difficultés d’une telle entreprise, qui eût été terminée depuis long-temps sans les évènements politiques qui ont agité l’Europe, j’ai réclamé la coopération des antiquaires les plus distingués, et la partie scientifique de l’ouvrage est traitée par des hommes dont les travaux sont appréciés dans les deux hémisphères. Mais une tâche que je n’ai dû confier à personne, c’est la dédicace de cet ouvrage que j’offre au Congrès de la fédération mexicaine, comme un hommage de reconnaissance pour l’accueil bienveillant et les faveurs dont j’ai été l’objet pendant mon séjour au Mexique.

Le développement des principes généreux qui animent le Congrès facilitera de nouvelles découvertes, impatiemment attendues par les savants de tous les pays. Les ruines monumentales qui couvrent la terre d’Anahuac renferment des trésors historiques qui, sous un gouvernement national, ne peuvent manquer de féconder le domaine des sciences et des arts.

Puisse votre régénération politique amener bientôt cette prospérité nationale à laquelle le Mexique est destiné par les richesses de son sol, la beauté de son climat et le génie de ses enfants ! Alors sortiront de ces nouvelles Pyramides, de ces autres Herculanum, des œuvres qui démontreront que l’Amérique n’a rien à envier au reste de la terre. A l’exemple [II] des nations qui revendiquent une longue suite de siècles, et aiment à placer leur origine dans la nuit des temps, elle prouvera par ses zodiaques, par l’architecture de ses palais, par le fini de ses bas-reliefs et par ses hiéroglyphes, que les arts avaient aussi une ancienne patrie dans ce nouveau monde que les conquérants crurent trouvé au berceau. Les merveilles de Palenque et de Mitla rivaliseront désormais avec les plus célèbres monuments de l’Égypte et de l’Inde, et hâteront les rapports qui doivent exister entre tous les membres de la famille humaine, de laquelle le Mexique fut trop long-temps séparé.

H. BARADÈRE.

[III] […]

ATTESTATION DU GOUVERNMENT MEXICAIN

Je soussigné, conservateur du Musée national de Mexico, certifie que les cent quarante-cinq dessins livrés par moi à M. Baradère, le sept septembre mille huit cent vingt-huit, en vertu de l’échange approuvé par le gouvernement suprême de la République, sont les dessins originaux exécutés par don Luciano Castañeda, dessinateur dudit Musée, pendant les trois expéditions dont il fit partie, sous la direction du capitaine Dupaix, par ordre du Gouvernement, à l’effet de dessiner les ruines de Palenque et de Mitla.
En foi de quoi je signe. A Mexico, le deux janvier mille huit cent trente.

Signé ISID. IGN. ICAZA.

Je soussigné, José Maria Ortiz Monasterio, second officier-major chargé des décrets de la première secrétairerie d’Etat, et du département des relations intérieures et extérieures ;
Certifie que la signature apposée par le conservateur du Musée au bas de la pièce précédente est la même que celle apposée au bas de sa correspondance officielle. Et, en exécution de la circulaire du 30 juin 1824, je donne le présent certificat. A Mexico, le 9 janvier 1830.

Signé JOSÉ MARIA ORTIZ MONASTERIO.

Vu par nous, gérant du Consulat-général de France à Mexico, pour légalisation de la signature de M. Monasterio, second-officier-major du ministère des relations extérieures. – Enregistré folio 19, n° 39. – Mexico, le 9 janvier 1830.

Signé COCHELET

Suivent les sceaux du gouvernement mexicain et du consulat-général de France.

To the General Congress of the Mexican Federation

Translation by Susana Stüssi Garcia

GENTLEMEN,

When the Mexican Government gave me possession of the original drawings and manuscripts that are the product of the three expeditions to Palenque and Mitla, they did so with the expectation that I would publish these precious documents. The copy that I have the honour to present to the Congress is the proof that the Mexicans, true friends of Science and of the Arts, did not count upon my zeal in vain.

Given the difficulties of a work such as this – a work that would have long been finished if not for the political events that have recently shaken Europe – I have asked for the cooperation of the most distinguished antiquarians, and the scientific part of this work was treated by men whose works are recognized in both hemispheres. However, there was one task I would trust to no-one but myself, and that is the dedication of this work that I offer to the Congress of the Mexican federation in homage and in reconnaissance for their warm welcome and the favours given to me during my stay in Mexico.

The development of the general principles adopted by Congress will facilitate new discoveries, which scholars of all nations await with impatience. The monumental ruins that cover the land of Anahuac enclose historical treasures that under [the guidance of] a national government will without doubt enrich the fields of the Sciences and of the Arts.

May your political regeneration soon bring the national prosperity to which Mexico is destined, through the richnesses of its soil, the beauty of its climate and the genius of its children! Then, from these new Pyramids, these other Herculanum, new works will come forth and prove that the Americas have nothing to envy the rest of the world. Just as other nations claim many centuries of history and love to place their origin in the dawn of times, [the Americas] will prove through its zodiacs, through its architecture and its palaces, by the finish of its bas-reliefs and through its hieroglyphs that the Arts have an ancient home in this New World, which the conquerors believed to find in the cradle. The marvels of Palenque and Mitla will from now on rival Egypt’s and India’s most celebrated monuments. They will also bring forward the relations that once existed between all members of the human family, and from which Mexico has been for too long separated.

H. BARADÈRE

[…]

ATTESTATION FROM THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT

I, the undersigned, curator of the National Museum of Mexico, certify that the one hundred and forty-five drawings given by me to M. Baradère, in the seventh of September of the year one thousand and twenty-eight, by virtue of the exchange approved by the supreme government of the Republic, are the original drawings executed by don Luciano Castañeda, illustrator of said Museum during the three expedition of which he was part of under the direction of Capitain Dupaix, by order of the Government, to draw the ruins of Palenque and of Mitla.
In witness whereof, I sign. In Mexico, the 2nd January of 1830

            Signed ISID. IGGN. ICAZA

I, the undersigned, José Maria Ortiz Monasterio, second officier-major in charge of decrees signed by the first secretary of the State, and of the department of interior and exterior relations.
Certify that the signature of the curator of the Museum at the end of the preceding document is the same as the one signed in his official correspondence. And, in compliance with the bulletin from the 30th of June 1824, I deliver the present certification. In Mexico, the 9th of January 1830.

Signed JOSE MARIA ORTIZ MONASTERIO.

Seen by us, responsible of the French Consulate General in Mexico, for the legalisation of the signature of M. Monasterio, second officier-majeur of the ministry of foreign relations. – In folio 1ç, n° 30. – Mexico, the 9th of January 1830.

Signed COCHELET

Below, the seals of the Mexican Government and the French Consulate General.

Brief biography

Little is known about the life of Jean Henri Baradère (1792–1839 ca.). After serving as a missionary in Senegal (1822–1824), he was sent by Gabriel-Jacques Laisné de Villévêque, a French politician with important economic interests in Mexico, to organise a French colonisation project in the state of Oaxaca. After carrying out several archaeological excavations in Mayan sites in Mexico, he returned to France in 1829 with an important collection of Mexican antiques and prepared the publication of Antiquités Mexicaines, a work that, after Humboldt’s Vues des Cordillères (Paris, 1810), revealed to the French and European public the »lost pyramids« of the ancient Maya. Baradère returned to the Americas in 1835, but all trace of him was lost somewhere in Mexico around 1839.

Commentary – Baradère’s Antiquités mexicaines: the birth of Mexican archaeology and a quid pro quo for the export of ancient Mexican artefacts

The publication of Antiquités Mexicaines (1834–1836) marks the birth of French interest in Mexican archaeology. This luxurious in-folio publication was edited by Jean-Henri Baradère, a French missionary who first embarked for Mexico in 1827 as a representative for an investment company looking to establish a French colony in the Tehuantepec isthmus. He returned to France two years later with an important collection of Mexican antiquities as well as a series of documents and illustrations of ancient Aztec and Mayan antiques he had found in Mexico. Once back, he undertook the editing and publication of Antiquités mexicaines, a monumental compendium of travel accounts and essays on different aspects of ancient American cultures, from North-American Moundbuilders’ architecture to Aztec and Peruvian antiquities. The texts vary wildly in nature and in quality, but Antiquités mexicaines marks a before and an after in European scholarly interest in ancient American cultures and greatly contributed to the multiplication of publications concerning the Americas and the popularization of collecting Pre-Columbian art and antiques.

The most important part of Antiquités mexicaines consists of Guillermo Dupaix’s reports and drawings from the Real Expedicion Anticuaria. These documents are the ones referred to in the certificate of authenticity granted by the Mexican government to Baradère. The expedition was entrusted by king Charles IV of Spain to Guillermo Dupaix (ca. 1750–1817), a captain of the Dragoons of Mexico. The objective of the expedition, conducted between 1805 and 1809, was to document important antiquities in the New Spain territory for the Spanish Crown and to eventually collect them (López Luján et al. 2012, López Luján and Richard 2017). Dupaix was accompanied by a local artist, José Castañeda, who sketched and drew many of the monuments and antiques. Dupaix’s early death in 1817 and the Mexican Independence (1821) interrupted the project, although many of the pieces inventoried by Dupaix were brought to Mexico City in the following years under the new Mexican government (López Luján et al. 2012). The scientific value of the antiques, reports and drawings – which documented in detail several sites and monuments hitherto unknown – was clearly recognized, since they were deposited in the new National Museum, created in 1825. However, the political turmoil at the time makes it difficult to follow their trajectory afterwards. A part of the collection and some of the drawings were sold by Castañeda in public auction to a young French entrepreneur named Latour Allard, who then brought them to Europe and tried to sell them to the Louvre museum (Guimaraes 1996), sparking outrage amongst Mexican elites and resulting in an international investigation of the sale by Tomas Murphy, a representative of the Mexican Republic’s legation in Britain (López Luján et al. 2012).

Aware of the value of the documents and the collection, and of the opportunity they presented to establish himself as one of the first experts in Mexican archaeology, Baradère sought to bring them to France for study and publication. However, legislation from 1829 forbidding the sale and export of national antiquities (Keen 1971, 321) and the recent Latour Allard scandal made it complicated for antiques to leave Mexican territory. Hence Baradère’s careful wording in his introduction, as well as the inclusion of the certificate of authenticity in Antiquités mexicaines. Baradère explains the publication of his work as an important task entrusted to him by the Mexican Government, and presents France as pioneering the study of Mexican antiquity, thus graciously helping Mexico take its place amongst civilized, modern Nations, elevating Mayan and Aztec antiquity to the level of that of Egypt and Greece.

Similarly, Charles-François Farcy (1792–1867), a prominent member of the Société des antiquaires de France, explains how Baradère came across part of the collections and Dupaix’s reports in the Mexican National Museum, where he »exhumed« them from »oblivion« (»Discours préliminaire«, Antiquités mexicaines, p. VI ), further reinforcing the idea that it was thanks to French intervention that the study of Mexican antiquity was now made accessible to the world. In reality, in order to obtain Dupaix’s diaries, drawings and a collection of antiques, Baradère negotiated a mutually advantageous exchange with Isidro Icaza (1783–1834), the first director of the Museo Nacional de Mexico, allowing him to return to Europe with what was arguably the largest collection of Mexican artefacts in Europe at the time (Rapport de la commission […], 1829), as well as Dupaix’s reports and drawings, which would eventually have to be returned to Mexico. Through Icaza, Baradère obtained special permission to explore several Pre-Columbian sites (most notably the Mayan cities of Palenque and Mitla) and take with him half of his finds (Warden 1829, 48). In exchange, he gave the Mexican museum a large collection of stuffed African and Mexican birds and insects (Achim 2011). Icaza’s agreement with Baradère was not one of a kind. The director of the Mexican museum seemed to have been relatively free to personally negotiate exchanges with foreign collectors, as he struck similar deals with J. R. Poinsett, a United States representative in Mexico, and Heinrich Virmond, a German investor with large commercial interests in Acapulco and California (Achim 2011, 218).

Why was Isidro Icaza able to personally negotiate these deals and why was the exchange of source documents and artefacts against a collection of natural specimens considered »mutually advantageous« to both parties? The worth attributed to these artefacts – whether economical or symbolical – was not the same in Mexico and in Europe. If the symbolic importance of having a museum of Mexican antiquities was not questioned by the Mexican authorities, its upkeep was not a priority during the first half of the 19th century (Achim 2011, 217). Furthermore, the construction of a Mexican identity drawing heavily on its Pre-Columbian past – and consequently, the valorisation of its Aztec and Mayan heritage – would only really develop during the second half of the century (Florescano 2005). The independence of Mexico in 1821 had opened the country’s considerable natural wealth to foreign investment. The political turmoil after the independence, the need to attract foreign capital and president Lopez de Santa Anna’s (1794–1876) desire to present Mexico as a modern and internationally relevant nation-state, help explain why these antiques were traded despite heritage protection laws. On the other hand, European collectors were eager to acquire artefacts from a »forgotten« ancient civilisation, the discovery of which – as indicated in Baradères dedication – showed great scientific promise, as Egypt had a few decades before. For Icaza, the birds and insects he received were a valuable addition to his museum, since the National Museum of Mexico was lacking in exotic natural history collections at a time where these were popular all over Europe (Achim 2011). If Aztec artefacts were relatively commonplace in Mexico, African birds were not.

In this context, the certificate of authenticity ratified by representatives of both governments was needed for two reasons. Firstly, to justify Baradère’s deal with Icaza, which, given the absence of any established institutional protocols for the exchange or sale of national antiquities, was personal in nature. Secondly, it added weight to Dupaix’s reports at a time where European scholars were debating the antiquity of the population of the American continent. Baradère’s intent with his publication was to establish himself as a specialist of Mexican archaeology amongst European antiquaries and scholars; providing proof of the authenticity of the contents of Dupaix’s reports was therefore vital.

Baradère’s carefully worded dedication, the official attestation, as well as a letter from the Mexican President included in the book all justify Baradère’s acquisition of the documents and their translocation to France, simultaneously establishing Baradère’s magnum opus as a scholarly landmark. Several renowned scholars submitted contributions to the work, including an essay by Alexandre Lenoir, curator of the Musée des monuments français, a letter from Romantic author François-René de Chateaubriand and reports from David Baillie Warden and Charles Farcy, both members of the Société royale des Antiquaires de France. While there is no doubt that Baradère’s deal with Icaza made previously unknown sources available to antiquarian research, there is an act of scientific appropriation as a consequence of the translocation of the source documents and drawings. In his introduction, as well as in communications to scholarly societies announcing his project (Baradère 1830, 40), Baradère emphasises France’s central role in the study of American antiquity. It was, after all, a Frenchman who had discovered the precious Dupaix reports, otherwise ignored (and lost) by local authorities. De Santa Anna’s letter seems to further support France’s efforts, recognizing its invaluable contribution to the discovery of Mexico’s past and the overall progress of Science and the Arts. Finally, it is not clear if the original documents were ever returned to Mexico.

Susana Stüssi Garcia is a PhD student at the Ecole Doctorale d’Histoire de l’Art (ED441) at Panthéon Sorbonne University in Paris, working with Dominique Poulot on the reception of pre-Columbian art and antiques in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sources and literature

Miruna Achim, »The Art of the Deal, 1828: How Isidro Icaza Traded Pre-Columbian Antiquities to Henri Baradère for Mounted Birds and Built a National Museum in Mexico City in the Process«, in West 8-th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, 18, 2011, n° 2, pp. 214–231.

Jean-Henri Baradère, »Extrait d’une lettre de M. Baradère, relative à la publication de la description des monumens du Palenqué et de Mitla«, in: Bulletin de la Société de géographie, 14, 1830, pp. 39–40, available online.

Susana Guimaraes, »Le musée des antiquités américaines du Louvre (1850–1887). Une vision du collectionnisme américain au XIXème siècle«, mém. de mast., université Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne, Centre de recherche en archéologie précolombienne, 1996.

Enrique Florescano, »Patria y nación en la época de Porfirio Díaz«, in: Signos Históricos, 7, 2005, n° 13, pp. 152–187.

Leonardo López Luján, Marie-France Fauvert-Berthelot and Susana Guimarães, »The Real Expedicion Anticuaria Collection«, in: David Carrasco and Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, Fanning the Sacred Flame: Mesoamerican Studies in Honor of H. B. Nicholson, University Press of Colorado, 2012, pp. 461–486.

Leonardo López Luján and Elodie Richard, »Un Luxembourgeois de Vielsalm, pionnier de l’archéologie préhispanique et mexicaine: Guilielmus Josephus DUPAIX (1764–1818)«, in: Bulletin Trimestriel de l’Institut d’archéologie du Luxembourg-Arlon, 93, 2017, n° 3–4, pp. 26–41.

Benjamin Keen, The Aztec Image in Western Thought, New Jersey 1971.

David Bailie Warden, Rapport de la commission [chargée de rendre compte de la collection d’antiquités mexicaines de M. Baradère] de la Société royale des Antiquaires de France, séance du 29 juin, 1829, in: Bulletin de la Société de géographie, 12, 1829.

Cite this article as:
Baradère: Antiquités mexicaines (1834), commented by Susana Stüssi Garcia, in: Translocations. Anthologie: Eine Sammlung kommentierter Quellentexte zu Kulturgutverlagerungen seit der Antike, https://translanth.hypotheses.org/ueber/baradere, published 12.09.2019.

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