French Travelers to the East: Jean de Thévenot and Cultural Exchange in the 16th and 17th Centuries

Apr. 21, 2012Jul. 24, 2012
Huntington Art Gallery, Works on Paper Room

A 17th-century portrait of Jean de Thévenot by Philippe de Champaigne, one of France’s most important Baroque painters, is the centerpiece of a small, focused exhibition exploring themes of cultural exchange in the 16th and 17th centuries. An accomplished linguist and natural scientist, de Thévenot traveled extensively throughout the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires and wrote about his journeys to the exotic East.

His portrait is displayed with a selection of eight related drawings, manuscripts, and books from The Huntington's collections as well as  from the Getty Museum, Getty Research Institute, and LACMA. These works help place the painting in a larger and richer context, offering insights into such issues as the relationship between portraiture and travel, the early modern fashion of wearing “Eastern” clothes and its implications for the textile industry, and depictions of the self as exotic or foreign. Antónia Szabari, associate professor of French and comparative literature at the University of Southern California, co-curated the exhibition with Catherine Hess, chief curator of European art at The Huntington.