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 Â´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