Louis François Cassas
Relevant Non-Istrians


ouis-François Cassas was born to a poor family on June 3, 1756 at Azay-le-Feron (Indre) in France. His father was an artisan in the office of the Ponts et Chaussés, and the son followed him there as an apprentice draughtsman at the age of fifteen. Louis' artistic talents, however, caught the eye of an amateur artist.
L'oeuvre originale "Homme en costume Louis XVI dessinant dans un
paysage dit aussi Portrait de Louis François Cassas" a été réalisée
par l'artiste Denon Vivant Dominique, Baron (1747-1825)

painter, architect and archeologist

born in Azay-le-Feron

He was then educated by artists of the 1700s from opposite ends of the artistic spectrum, including Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809), a Neoclassical painter and teacher to Jacques-Louis David ("the Robespierre of the brush"), Louis Jean François Lagrenée the younger (1739-1821), and painters such as Jean-Baptiste Le Prince (1734-1781) who concentrated on Rococo, a style of painting, architecture, and interior decoration in the early 1700s especially prominent during Louis XV's reign in which asymmetry, soft colors, gaiety, and naturalistic motifs deriving from rocks and shells characterize the style.

The Cascades at Terni (1780)

Pen and gray and black ink with brown wash image, ornamental surround: 19-7/8 x 14-3/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum

In 1778 Cassas went to Italy, venturing out from Rome to Venice, Naples, and Sicily, sketching everything he saw and nourishing his passion for antiquity - that is, classical Greek and Roman civilization - of which, between about 1400 and 1900, the literature, art, and architecture of antiquity were assumed to be of superior quality and worth special study. "Cassas's drawings are unusually beautiful. I have stolen a lot of ideas from him," wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a writer of the Romantic movement which encompassed art, literature, and music of the early 1800s. Romanticism exalted the sublime beauty of nature, the artist's emotional, personal, and imaginative faculties and individual genius, and subjects that were sublime exotic, transcendental, and mysterious.

The well-known waterfalls at Terni, forty miles north of Rome, were a popular subject for artists, who often drew them as souvenirs for tourists. Cassas took the opportunity to depict nature's might, a favorite subject of Neoclassical landscapists aiming to convey the concept of the Sublime. To ensure that viewers felt awestruck by the power of the rushing waters, Cassas inserted tiny people in antique costume gesturing in amazement at the spectacle. He also enhanced the cataract's grandeur by choosing a low viewpoint. [Click the image to see an enlarged view of the rendering.]

References to antiquity were typical in the work of Neoclassical artists, but the ancient figures here also may refer to the falls' origin, when Roman irrigation diverted the Velino River into the Nera in 271 B.C. The decorative surround appears on the same sheet of paper as the drawing itself, implying that before Cassas put pen to paper, he intended to set his composition within an ornamental frame.

Istria and Dalmatia

In 1782, Cassas travelled the East Adriatic coast from Istria to Southern Dalmatia where he was commissioned to make drawings of the antiquities in the area by 'une societe d'amateurs des beaux arts'. The original watercolors are at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, minus those used for the technical drawings that are reproduced in the book Travel, Voyages, Exploration. 

In the course of the one year, Cassas stayed in Pola three times: the first, coming from Trieste for a quick tour; the second remaining for a while during a trip en route to Split (Spalato), and finally for six days on the return trip to Venice. Pula with its monuments therefore must have attracted him in a particular way, as it is true that he unscrupulously portrayed both the general views and the technical details of ornamentations and buildings. His sketches of Pula represent an exceptionally valuable source for getting to know this town as it was at the end of the 18th century, both in architectural and archaelogical sense. 

Cassas's numerous sketches were eventually published as engravings that were reproduced to copperplate printing in his 2-volume book, Voyage pittoresque et histrique de l'Istrie et de la Damatie (Paris, 1802). The book consisted of 69 copperplates, with the second part including the text by Lavallée which was edited from Cassas' journal of the voyage. (H. Blackmer Part II). In 1805, an English translation of the text was published. His sketches of Pula [see Pola (1782] represent an exceptionally valuable source for getting to know this town as it was at the end of the 18th century, both in the architectural and archaelogical sense.

Description of the original folio:

LAVALLÉE JOSEPH, Voyage pittoresque et historique de l’Istrie et de la Dalmatie, rédigé d’après l’itinéraire de L. F. Cassas

Paris, Vilain 1802. [Lg.-Folio]
First edition. Bound in 2 vol., text and plates. 1 unnum. leave, 167 pp.; 1 engraved title, engraved frontispiece, 1 engraved folded map and 66 (many folded or double) engraved plates. The famous travelbook on Dalmatia based on the sketches drawn by Cassas 1782. Illustrated with decorative views of Pola, Triest, Split, etc. As well illustrated with plans and antiquities of this region. Cassas visited Istria and Dalmatia in 1782 when he was commissioned to make drawings of the antiquities in the area by 'une societe d'amateurs des beaux arts'. The second part of the text by Lavallée is edited from Cassa's journal of the voyage. (H. Blackmer Part II). Price: Euro 9500 / US $ 12014

Paris, Didot, An X/1802.
In folio, (mm 505 x 328); [4], 1-492 p.; viij., 190, [2] p. + 66 tav. all’acquaforte a piena pagina. Testo a una e due colonne. Legatura in mezzo cuoio con piatti in carta marmorizzata, dorso arrotondato con decorazioni floreali.

Prima edizione di questa splendida opera illustrata con i disegni del Cassas sotto la direzione del Neé. Cassas disegnatore del conte Choiseul-Gouffier visitò l’Istria e la Dalmazia nel 1782 su commissione di un gruppo di amatori, tra i quali il Visconti, allo scopo di fare dei disegni sulle antichità di quella regione. Il testo di Lavallée è suddiviso in due parti: la prima è una storia generale dell’area, la seconda parte è il giornale di viaggio di Cassas (Blackmer). La lista dei sottoscrittori include Talleyrand, baron de Staël, Piranesi, Quatremére de Quincey, Laborde, Millin e i Bonaparte. Splendido esempio di produzione libraria classicistica, con legatura adeguata, probabilmente di provenienza viennese. Magnifiche le panoramiche delle città tra le quali spiccano Trieste, Pola, Spalato, altre e squarci architettonici di opere antiche e dettagli di monumenti. Per un fortuito concorso di circostanze, il pittore francese Louis François Cassas (1756-1827) si trova a viaggiare nel 1782 lungo la sponda orientale dell’Adriatico, dall’Istria alla Dalmazia meridionale. Nel corso di quel viaggio esegui numerosi disegni che in seguito dipinse ad acquerello. Le loro calcografe nel 1802 vennero riprodotte nel libro Voyage pittoresque et historique l’Istrie et de la Dalmatie, stampato a Parigi con note di Joseph Lavallée. Poiché il testo una vera compilazione delle più disparate fonti, senza una effettiva conoscenza delle terre di cui si parla, esso è molto meno interessante delle incisioni che, per la loro qualità, sono invece dei documenti assai precisi sui monumenti delle città e delle regioni attraversate da Cassas (Trieste, Parenzo, Pola, Zara, le cascate della Krka, Spalato, Salona). Gli originali dei disegni acquerellati si trovano a Londra (Victoria anc Albert Museum), mancano invece quelli dei disegni tecnici (planimetrie e ricostruzioni), che nel libro sono riprodotti; essi integrano validamente le incisioni ed hanno un valore archeologico-architettonico unico. Nel corso di quell’anno Cassas soggiornò a Pola per tre volte: la prima, proveniente da Trieste, per una breve gita; la seconda trattenendovi per poco, durante un viaggio con meta Spalato; e infine, di ritorno a Venezia, per sei giorni. Pola con i suoi monumenti doveva dunque attrarlo in modo particolare, tant’ vero che ritrasse scrupolosamente sia le vedute generali che i dettagli tecnici ornamentali ed edili. Le illustrazioni di Cassas sono spesso servite alla ricostruzione dell’aspetto originale di alcuni ambienti della cittavecchia polese, dei suoi monumenti e dintorni. [offered for € 8.800,00 at Libreria Editrice Goriziana}

Pula (Pola)

Trieste Harbor, 1802. UltraChrome Giclée Print on fine art canvas copy of the original oil painting.

From 1784 to 1786, Cassas lived and worked at the French embassy. In 1784, he accompanied the French Compte (Count) Marie Gabriel August de Choiseul-Gouffier as a member of his retinue as ambassador to the Ottoman court (1784-92) on his mission to Constantinople (Istanbul), but Cassas remained there only a few weeks. Commissioned by Choiseul-Gouffier, from the end of 1784 to 1787 he travelled extensively throughout the various provinces of the Ottoman empire. He visited Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Cyprus, and Asia Minor, the Ancient Roman name for Anatolia, a region equivalent to modern Turkey. He drew ancient Middle Eastern sites, many of which had never before been recorded. With Choiseul's assistance, he later published them as one of the most beautiful eighteenth century illustrated books on the Middle East. The drawings he made there include studies of costumes, architectural pieces, monuments, views, processions, scenes from daily life and animals. On two visits to Egypt in 1785, Cassas drew the antiquities of Alexandria, the pyramids of Giza, and the mosques of Cairo. In Syria, Cassas made numerous drawings of Palmyra and in Lebanon he produced another series illustrating Baalbec. 

"Entrée Solemnelle du Pacha au Caire" (1785?)

Copper etching by Delaunay after Louis François Cassas from Voyage pitt. de la Syrie, de la Phénicie etc. published in 1799. (Cassas had planned a description of the voyage to Syria, Palestine and Eygpt, but it was never finished and only 30 of these were published.)

The originals of his famous works for both Voyages were oil paintings and these were deposited in the Bibliothèque Royale.

In 1787 Cassas journeyed back to France via Rome, arriving in Paris in 1792. After the Revolution, he was appointed as professor of design and as Inspector-general at the Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory in Paris where he remained for eleven years.

Cassas exhibited views of his travels at the Salons of 1804 and 1814. (Salons were the periodic art exhibitions sponsored by the French Académie Royale. Begun in 1667, they were among the most prestigious and influential exhibitions of European art until the development of independent art societies in the late 1800s). His 745 models of ancient monuments in cork and terracotta, was purchased by the government and deposited in Paris's École des Beaux-Arts. That valuable collection influenced Neoclassicism's development in the early 1800s.

Cassas died suddenly at Versailles, of a stroke of apoplexy, on November 1, 1827 at the age of 72. He was invested with several orders of knighthood. In 1973, Yugoslavia issued a postage stamp of the city of Split from one if his 1782 etchings. 

Cassas, Louis - Francois, slikar i ilustrator (Azay-le-Ferron, 1756 - Versailles, 1827). Pokazav¹i nadarenost za umjetnost veæ u mladosti, uèio je slikarstvo u Parizu, a od 1778. boravio je u Rimu, gdje je crtao i slikao antièke spomenike. U duhu ranoga klasicizma, zanimali su ga ant. spomenici i krajolici u kojima su se nalazili, pa je putovao Italijom, Bliskim istokom, Egiptom i Grèkom. God. 1782. posjetio je i gradove na ist. obali Jadrana od Trsta do Splita (Pula, Zadar, Skradin), izraðujuæi pritom crte¾e i akvarele krajolika i ant. spomenika. Na temelju njegovih putnih bilje¹ki, crte¾a, slika, ali i tekstova dr. autora (npr. —> A. Fortisa), —> J. Lavallée napisao je tekst knjige Voyage pittoresque et historique de l'Istrie et de la Dalmatie (Pariz 1802), koja je bogato opremljena bakrorezima, izraðenima na temelju Cassasovih akvarela i crte¾a. Oni ilustriraju ant. spomenièku ba¹tinu Pule potkraj XVIII. st., prije poèetka razvitka grada u XIX. st. Cassasovo je djelo imalo velikog odjeka u klasicistièkim krugovima arhitekata i umjetnika u Francuskoj. Izvorni akvareli èuvaju se u Victoria & Albert Museum u Londonu.


D. Keækemet, Louis-François Cassas i njegove slike Istre i Dalmacije 1782, Rad JAZU (1978), 379.

R. Matija¹iæ'

Lake Bracciano with a view of Castello Odescalchi/

A mountanous landscape with a waterfall, near Terni.
Both pen and grey ink and watercolour, within a pair of black and grey framing lines; each bears pencil inscription and attribution, verso: Vue de la vallée et des grands/rochers au dessu de la Cascade/de Terni/Cassas and Vue du Château et d'une partie/du lac de Bracciano. Campagna/de Rome/AJ.Cassas [Source: http://stage.browse.sothebys.com/]

CHOISEUL-GOUFFIER, Marie Gabriel August

In 1776 Choiseul-Gouffier and the artist J.B. Hilaire joined a cartographic survey of the Mediterranean. Volume I of Voyage Pittoresque, his account of their tour of the Greek islands, the coast of Asia Minor, and of his travels on the mainland, was immediately acclaimed on publication in 1778. Partly as a result, Choiseul-Gouffier was appointed ambassador at Constantinople in 1784, an office which he used to conduct further archaeological and other researches in the area. He was removed from office in 1792 by the French revolutionary government, and following 10 years in Russia returned to France in 1802 to begin work on volume 2 of his Voyage Pittoresque. He died in 1817, and his great work was completed by Barbié du Bocage.

Choiseul-Gouffier's work was the first of the so-called voyages pittoresques. It offered, for the first time, illustrations of remote places that complemented the narrative, itself scrupulously researched. The superb illustrations to his work are largely after originals by Hilaire, a student of J.-B. Le Prince. However, certain of those featuring the Troad are from drawings by Louis François Cassas, and others are by Jean Mathieu and Alexandre de Laborde (later to become director of the atelier of engravers of the massive Napoleonic Description de l'Egypte). With these resources, Choiseul-Gouffier produced what remains an important and pleasing work.

Selected works

  • Getty Museum, Louis Francois Cassas - Biography (http://getty.art.museum/art/collections/bio/a3398-1.html Biography) and The Cascades at Terni (http://www.getty.edu/art/collections/objects/o459.html)
  • http://www.belly-dance.org/cassas.html
  • http://www.leidenuniv.nl/nino/aeb94/aeb94_1.html
  • Travel Catalogues - Europe (Marie Gabriel August CHOISEUL-GOUFFIER) - http://www.sotherans.co.uk/Catalogues/Travel1050/Europe50.html
  • Italian text - http://www.leg.it/antiqua/stampantica_07_manoscritti5.htm
  • Annual Register, by James Dodsley, 1823, with Item notes 1827.
  • Postage - http://worldheritage.heindorffhus.dk/frame-CroatiaSplit.htm
  • Image (Trieste harbor) - http://www.europicture.de/product_info.php/language/en/products_id/402048
  • Image (Pola) and text -  Istarska Enciklopedia - p. 129-30/
  • Cassas portrait - http://www.hathorart.com/Exhibitions/Cassas/1.asp

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Created: Saturday, March 08, 2003; Last updated: Sunday, November 04, 2012
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