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CASPARI, Chrétien Edouard (1840-1918)
[Album of Ten Original Watercolour Views of Saigon and Environs].
1877-1878. Watercolour and ink on paper; six larger sketches, ca. 13x21 cm (5x8 in), and four smaller ones, ca. 10,5x14 cm (4 x 5 ½ in). All captioned and dated in ink in the lower margins of the images, with additional pencil captions or notes on the mounts. Period style maroon gilt tooled half morocco with cloth sides. Watercolours mounted laid paper leaves. Album overall in very good condition. Beautiful sketches taken from life by a skilful amateur artist, a French colonial engineer, while serving in Indochina. The collection includes several interesting views of Saigon showing the La Sainte Enfance School, St. Joseph Seminary ('Seminaire annamite'), the house of the director of the French arsenal, a horse-driven carriage or 'Malabar' et al. The watercolours include some nice portraits of the locals, including a sketch of a Chinese merchant followed by a servant carrying his goods, portraits of Vietnamese women with children, people driving oxen carts, villagers et al. There is also a great view of Dong Nai River near Bien Hoa city (32 km east from Saigon) - a peaceful picture of a river with two people paddling in a boat and several village houses amidst lush tropical greenery on shore. The earliest watercolour in the collection, dated 1877, is a view of Bangkok. One sketch shows local plants - mango tree, bamboo and an Erythrina tree covered with bright red flowers. Chrétien Édouard Caspari was a French hydrographer and astronomer. He graduated from École polytechnique in 1860, and in 1862-1902 he worked as a hydrographer and engineer in France, the Caribbean and French Indochina (the Gulf of Siam, Annam and Tonkin). Caspari was the author of an astronomy textbook for the Service Hydrographique de la Marine, and of numerous scientific papers, some relating to Indochina. He was awarded with the Prix Montijon of the French Academy of Sciences (1878), and in 1905 he became President of the Astronomical Society of France.