Vue du Port et de la Ville de Lamekk dans Larabie heureuse a 5 lieues de la Mer Rouge.
9.25 x 14 in (23.495 x 35.56 cm)
This is a rare vue d'optique or vue perspective of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: the main port serving the cities of Mecca and Medina. It is the second-largest city of Saudi Arabia and is the country's commercial capital. Despite the long importance of this city, we are aware of no other depiction of the port prior to the mid 19th century. Though the view bears no imprint, we are inclined to attribute it to the publishing house of Louis-Joseph Mondhare, based on the engraving style, content, and the hand of the title text.
Mecca's Red Sea PortAlthough the view names the depicted port 'Lamekk,' (la Mecque, or Mecca), this is plainly imprecise, as that city lies well inland from the sea. The port and city shown, then, is Jeddah, the primary Red Sea port for the Hajj pilgrimage destination and an essential trading city. For Mondhare's audience, either city was so remote that the distinction would have been irrelevant.
The ViewIn sharp contrast with the modern city, the view (framed by a fanciful proscenium) does not evoke a remarkably busy port. Jeddah's medieval fortifications, as shown here, would not have impressed an 18th-century French audience, though the reader would have taken note of the crescent-topped domes and minarets. Ships can be seen in the distant Red Sea, and rowing launches ply the canal leading from the port to the open water. In the foreground are shown disorderly wharves strewn with barrels, cannon, munitions, and anchors. Figures in oddly European garb appear to pick through the detritus while, to the far right, a boy sits with his feet dangling off the pier, fishing.
Perspective and Optical ViewsVues d'optique or vues perspective were popular prints meant for viewing through a zograscope: a device employing a large lens and mirror to give an illusion of depth. Such views are characterized by strong linear perspective and subject matter appealing to armchair travelers: and indeed, few French owners of a zograscope would be likely to ever clap eyes on Jeddah - a good thing, given that the view here was probably produced without the artist having seen his subject.
Publication History and CensusThis view is rare. There is one copy in OCLC, cataloged at the Bibliothèque National de France, with no attribution. We are aware of only two or three that have appeared on the market.
Louis-Joseph Mondhare (1734 - August 21, 1796) was a French engraver and publisher of maps, prints and vues d'optique active in the second half of the 18th century. Mondhare was born in Bougy (Calvados) and moved to Paris on or before 1759. He began publishing around 1760 under the Chez Mondhare imprint. On June 7 of 1784, his son-in-law Pierre Jean (1754-1829) joined the business and they changed their imprint to Mondhare & Jean. The Mondhare firm maintained their office in Paris on Rue St. Jacques, at the Hôtel Saumar, a well-known location for print sellers near St. Severin. Later they relocated to 32 Rue Saint-Jean de Beauvais. The firm ceased operation around 1796. Mondhare died shortly afterward in 1799. His name variantly appears on some imprints as Mondar or Mondhard.
Very good condition. Small area of surface scuffing with minor loss. One marginal mend away from printed image.