The session gathered Icelandic and French researchers: Árni Snævarr, Sumarliði R. Ísleifsson, Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir and Jan Borm. It allowed to learn more about Paul Gaimard, La Recherche and the French-Icelandic relations in the 19th century.

Summary of presentations:

Árni Snævarr
The French naturalist Paul Gaimard (1793-1858) came to Iceland, almost by chance in 1835, when he participated in the search for a French ship that had disappeared between Iceland and Greenland. Back in France he managed to secure the support of such luminaries, as François Arago of the Academy of Science and Alexander von Humboldt, to return with a scientific expedition in 1836. The resulting publications are to this day the single most comprehensive study of Iceland. Although the expedition continued to Scandinavia, the Recherche expedition and Gaimard himself are all but forgotten. The attention shown to Iceland and Icelanders, was, however, a boost at an important moment in the infancy of the Icelandic nationalist movement.

Jan Borm - "The La Recherche expedition in the Western Nordic Isles - Xavier Marmier's official account"
The French expedition La Recherche conducted by naval surgeon and naturalist Paul Gaimard (1793-1858) to Greenland and Iceland (1835 & 1836), as well as Lapland, Spitzbergen and the Faroes (1838 & 1839-1840), was one of the first major international and interdisciplinary scientific endeavours to explore the European North in the first half of the nineteenth century, leading to dozens of scholarly publications and at least two popular travelogues written by Xavier Marmier (1808-1892), the expedition’s official historian and chronicler. Though Marmier was a well-known writer in France during his day he no longer receives much critical attention. This paper will focus on his representations of Iceland in the official account in relation to two other volumes he contributed to the expeditions’ publications.

Sumarliði R. Ísleifsson
In Atlas historique I and II, which were among the books that were published after The French La Recherche expedition to Iceland in 1835 and 1836, there are close to 140 lithographs from Iceland. In the illustrations, diverse sides of Icelandic society and nature are presented, and many of them were later published in other works that dealt with Iceland in the 19th century. In Iceland, on the other hand, the lithographs became only well-known after the middle of the 20th century. In the paper I will discuss the reception of the lithographs in Iceland, when they started to attract attention and why, how they were introduced and what cultural-historical role they gradually acquired in Icelandic society. Examples of their various uses will be given on how they were presented in different media.

Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir
Voyage en Islande et au Groenland exécuté pendant les années 1835 et 1836 sur la corvette la Recherche is a colossal research project of 8 volumes published in Paris under the direction of French medical doctor and naturalist Paul Gaimard (1793-1858). The publication includes three atlases: Atlas historique I and II, and Atlas zoologique, médical et géographique. Most of the lithographs constituting the atlases were made after drawings by Auguste Mayer, who participated in the expeditions as an experienced naval artist. Open for interpretation, the images are exemplary of the French imperial gaze. In my talk I will investigate the pre-photographic status of the pictures and examine these phantasms of colonial fascination from an ecological and decolonial perspective.


Read the original news at the “Malaurie Institute of Arctic Research – Monaco-UVSQ” (MIARC) website.