1063 – Books: M.A. Proust (1858) `Voyage au Mont Athos`.

The magazine ´Le tour du monde, nouveau journal des voyages` (trip around the world, new travel journal) started in France in 1860. The magazine has excellent travel stories from all over the world, from the Eskimos via Indians to China and from Athos via the north pole to bushmen. For instance there are translated stories of Charles Darwin about Galapagos and of Stanley passing through Africa and discovering Congo. All very exciting and up to date stories (for the 19th century citizen and even for us today). Then there was still a lot to discover about the world. You can feel the excitement of the explorers, scientists and travelers when they write about their experiences in new and strange territories.
Antonion Proust wrote about the Monks republic in three pieces in the magazine. The author wanted to become a painter, under the influence of his childhood friend Edouard Manet, then turned to journalism and politics. When he was 26, in 1858, he traveled to Mount Athos. Later he founded the newspaper The Global Week in 1864 and became the personal secretary to Gambetta. Gambetta, once in power, rewarded his secretary who became the first ´Minister of Arts` in France in 1881.
Edouard Manet made this beautiful painting of his old friend. Manet was rewarded as well. When Proust was Minister for the Arts Manet was decorated with the Legion of Honor in 1881. Despite objections the ceremony took place on 1 January 1882. A year later, when he was 51, Manet died of syphilis, which he caught in Rio.

In 1884 Antonin Proust organized a major exhibition tracing Manet´s career. Proust, suffering from an incurable disease, committed suicide in 1905. Proust described the funeral as “wreaths, flowers, lots of women.”
Most of the illustrations are by other artists but the bas relief of Vatopedi is made by the author. Interesting is the some of the etchings are made on the basis of photographic pictures. It would be fascinating to know if these early photographs still exist. I assume that because of printing difficulties they used etchings instead of pictures.
At two in the morning of the 17th of may he anchored before the Russian monastery. Lots of curious monks look out of the high windows. It´s a four hour travel to Karyes. He describes a guard of twenty Christian Albanians who form the police corps. And the Turkeys Aga who protects the monks republic. The way Proust describes his meeting with the Aga is quite funny: `..(he).. reacted enthusiastically, happy to see other faces than liturgical but this expansion was short-lived and he relapsed into his stupor he probably will not come out till the day he will be called to other duties or allowed to assert his rights of retirement.`
He saw the assembly in Karyes. The scene looks had got the oriental flavor of an assembly in Turkey. With waterpipes and wide trousers. The fashion has changed a bit.
Near the Russian monastery he saw a real woodsman crouching on a rock who had no other clothing than his beard. He writes that the lightness of his costume was excused by the heat. There is no picture of this scene.

He gives all compliments to the works of Panselinos but is critical of what followed. He is of the opinion that the generations after Panselinos merely copied and did not improve the art of fresco´s. How can you make art like that after Michelangelo and after Rubens, he remarks. He states that it is due to the religious function that is more important than the artistic value. He perceives the mural paintings the book of the illiterate. Images to show ordinary people who cannot read the stories of the Bible. He is enthusiastic about the woodwork he observes in Filoteou. Wonders of patience and of original fantasy, he calls them.
He views the life on Athos from a considerable distance. He sees a parallel:  actors dressed in their long tunics like a repetition of the Last Judgment as in old almanacs.
He pays a visit to all the monasteries. I will show some of the etchings printed in the magazine.



You can read all (in French) in `Le tour du monde, nouveau journal des voyages`voyage au Mont Athos

Bas Kamps

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5 Responses to 1063 – Books: M.A. Proust (1858) `Voyage au Mont Athos`.

  1. art101 says:

    I’ve to do a correction about Mr. Zwerger. he passed away in spring not as I wrote September this year.Well,the date is of course of no significant importance. He also wrote a book about his travels on Mt. Athos called
    ‘Wege am Athos’ which he published on his own. He was a professional artist who created impressing wood and lineolium carvings dealing also with people and buildings of athos. Luckily I bought 2 of his pictures some years ago.
    if you are interrested I could send you some images of his book to pn adress. I myself will be on athos at the end of may 2010.
    happy new year

  2. Rainer Ludwig says:

    Wissenswertes xfcber Prof. Reinhold Zwerger, xfcber sein erwxe4hntes und empfehlenswertes Buch ist hier zu finden:


    Bestellungen sind in Deutschland und xd6sterreich mxf6glich.

    A Happy New Year

  3. Just as a matter of interest, the photographer was Antonio Schranz, an artist in his own right. Between his first voyage (to Corfu) and the journey with Proust to Mount Athos he travelled at least 150,000 kilometres, on camels, horses and caravans, all around the Eastern Mediterranean basin: Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Crete, Italy… painting hundreds of works. He accompanied many travellers who eventually published their travel journals with his engravings in them. He was also one of the early photographers, having opened the first photographic studio ever in the metropolis that was Cairo, in the late 1840s – ten years before any other one opened there. His paintings of Palmyra record for us monuments which sadly have since been blown up… He was son or a German artist father and a Spanish mother, and he became Maltese when his parents, with all their children, left Menorca and settled in Malta in 1818. Four of his siblings were also artists, as also were three of his brother’s children – eight (probably nine) artists born in one family in 70 years. He was a friend of Proust, who asked Antonio to accompany him to take photographs of the journey so that he would then have engravings made of the photographs – the reason being as you conjectured: printing multiple copies of photographs was not possible in those days.

  4. Bas Kamps says:

    Thank you for your comment, Mr. Schrantz. We would be interested in Antonio Schrantz’ other works on Athos, both his photographic work and his engravings. I found a couple of his engravings in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Very nice indeed. But I could not find any of his works on the Holy Mountain.

    • Dear Mr Kamps, I apologise for not answering before, but I was up to my neck! Unfortunately, the ones in Proust’s book are the only ones known. I have been researching the Schranz artists intensely these past years, but I only came across this feuilleton published by Proust that deals with Mount Athos. Antonio was my great-great-granduncle (that is, the brother of my great-great-grandfather). He died in 1865, but that is something I only discovered last year – up till then nobody knew when he had died. I also found his last will and testament, in which there are mentioned about 130 photographs of his (photographs were precious at that time). However – nobody knows where they ended up. Yes, there are many beautiful water colours of his at the Victoria and Albert. The lithographs are by his brother, Joseph (or Giuseppe). You can see many other water colours of his in the collection of the National Trust of Great Britain. This is the link: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/results?SearchTerms=Anton+Schranz

      Unfortunately, there are many attribution errors in their collection. The Schranz Artists were eight, and many of their works are confused. You will thus find them all catalogued as by Anton Schranz in that link, in reality, only one or two are by Anton (Anton was the father). Most are by Antonio (Anton’s son). Then there are engravings by Giuseppe (Joseph), who is the third son born. Also there are some oil and water colours by Giovanni (or John), who was the eldest son. It is difficult for me to explain which is by who.

      I hope you enjoy looking at them!

      Apologies that I cannot help you with any other photographs or paintings by his of Mount Athos – in fact it is only four months ago that I found he had gone there.

      In Proust’s publication, the engravings which say “apres une photographie” are from photographs taken by Antonio.

      Best regards,


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