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The only fine or colored original illustration of the Nauvoo Temple published in detail,
sketched seven weeks before the building was destroyed by fire

 


display suggestion only - frame not included

 

An ORIGINAL LITHOGRAPHED PLATE from HENRY LEWIS' original drawings, published in his classic and seldom-offered work . . .

DAS ILLUSTRIRTE MISSISSIPPITHAL, Dargestellt in 80 Nach der Natur Aufgenommenen Ansichten vom Wasserfalle zu St. Anthony an bis zum Gulf von Mexico . . . von H. Lewis . . . Nebst einer Historishchen und Geographischen Beschriebung der den Fluss Begränzenden Länder, mit Besonderer Rücksicht auf die Verschiedenen den Obern Mississippi Bewohnenden Indianerstämme.

Düsseldorf: Arnz & Comp., [1854-8]. Howes L312; Graff 2474; Flake 4893 (giving the date as [1857] and noting the Mormon article, "Nauvoo, Ill.: die Mormon Stadt.")

A SINGLE PLATE taken at some point from an original copy of Das Illustrirte Mississippithal. 188 X 264 mm. (approx. 7 3/8 X 10 3/8 inches), verso blank. Exhibiting generous margins. The image itself measures approx. 14 X 19½ cm. (5½ X 7¾ inches, not counting the attributions and captions), which read:

H. Lewis pinx - Lith. Jnst. Arnz & Co Düsseldorf
THE MORMON TEMPLE. - DER MORMONTEMPEL.

Printed in colors and finished by hand. In very good condition. Light foxing in the margins and traces of mounting on the back, but certainly a choice example of this important and essentially unobtainable picture.

unframed: $ 5,000

 

 

Described by Colton Storm as ". . . one of a half-dozen great and rare illustrated books relating to North America.," Das Ilustrirte Mississippithal "was issued originally in twenty parts, the first three of which were also published in an English version of the text." (A Catalogue of The Everett D. Graff Collection of Western Americana . . . [Chicago, 1968], entry 2474). As valuable as a first-edition Book of Mormon - and much more rare - this coveted book is rarely seen for sale in any format! In her modern scholarly edition of the work, Bertha L. Heilbron notes that "The excessive rarity of 'Das Illustrirte Mississippithal' and the beauty of the colored lithographs . . . have combined to make it a collector's prize eagerly searched for . . ." -quoted by Donald A. Heald Rare Books, New York City, offering an example of this book for $75,000.

To obtain an individual plate from this work naturally requires years of searching, or uncommon good fortune. To obtain the specific image most important to Latter-day Saints (without finding and purchasing the complete book) would be nearly impossible. The fine example available here was preserved in private hands for many years, and is now offered for sale.

 

"HENRY LEWIS, an English-born cabinet-maker whose family emigrated to the United States when he was ten," notes Donald A. Heald,

arrived in St. Louis in 1836. He was a self-taught painter but by the mid-1840s had gained some local repute as a 'landscape painter of more than ordinary merit'. Encouraged by a local newspaper editor, Lewis embarked upon a grand venture, the painting of a 1,000-foot panorama of the Mississippi River. With financial assistance from friends he made a number of sketching trips in 1846, 1847 and 1848, before he began painting of the panorama itself in 1848 (assisted by four other artists). His 'Great National Work' was first viewed in St. Louis the following year. The panorama, which Lewis' promoters claimed cost $15,000, was well received. Lewis toured the major cities of the United States and Canada with the painting and in 1851 began a tour of Europe. Interest in the panorama waned and by 1853 Lewis had settled in Dusseldorf, where he sold the panorama for $4000 to a 'wealthy planter from the island of Java, a Hollander by birth': its subsequent history is unknown.

The present work would appear to have resulted from Lewis's wish to make use of the numerous sketches and watercolours that he had made on his trips on the river, but there is evidence that he had been talking to the publishers, Arnz & Co., as early as 1848 (while he was still in America) about the possibility of publishing a book ('Arrang[e]ment with Mr Arst [Arnz] for a work on the Mississippi' [entry in Lewis's journal of 1848). The trickle of immigrants from Europe in general and Germany in particular had become a stream and it is evident that both Lewis and the publishers felt there would be a ready market for a work which graphically displayed, for the benefit of immigrants, the beauties of the Mississippi, its cities, towns and landscapes.

While Lewis' written observations are also of interest, it is his depictions of the valley of the Mississippi at mid-century that are remarkable. 'This book is famous for its colored plates of places and scenes along the Mississippi in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. These include views of such well-known cities as St. Louis, St. Paul, Dubuque, Burlington, Keokuk, Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez, and Baton Rouge. At the end is a magnificent folding plate of New Orleans' (Streeter). Indeed, the Lewis plates are the best series of western city views published prior to the Civil War, and they are a superb source for early images of life on the Mississippi.

Lewis' work was originally issued in twenty parts. In the early numbers, there were English and German issues of the plates, and copies appear in both variant forms. The plate count of 80 called for by the title is arrived at by the inclusion of the half-title as one plate and the superb folding New Orleans view as two. [quoted from the description by Donald A. Heald Rare Books cited earlier]

 

THERE WERE, in fact, FOUR major panoramas painted of the Mississippi valley, all in 1848-9. Their major artists were John Rowson SMITH, Samuel B. STOCKWELL, Leon de POMAREDE and, finally, Henry LEWIS. Hundreds of thousands of Americans and Europeans viewed these massive paintings as they were transported from city to city, netting substantial profits for their sponsors. Not one of the four panoramas appears to have survived. And while each devoted a segment to Nauvoo and the temple (a subject of major interest to audiences of the time!), we have today only two published illustrations to suggest what theater-goers may have seen on the original twelve-foot-tall canvases which were unrolled across the stage. No engravings of the Nauvoo views by Stockwell or de Pomarede seem to exist. One taken from Smith's panorama appeared in Graham's American Monthly Magazine for April 1849, and was billed as the first ever published. The actual building had already burned by the time the American public saw this view (shown at right). This was a somewhat primitive woodcut, of course, and showed the baptismal font outdoors for purposes of illustration. -This and some following information and illustrations are taken from the excellent article by Joseph Earl Arrington, "Panorama Paintings in the 1840s of the Mormon Temple in Nauvoo," BYU Studies 22:2 (Spring 1982), pp. 193-211.

 

THE ONLY CLOSE-UP NAUVOO TEMPLE VIEW of artistic merit which has come down to us from these once-grand exhibits of the late 1840s is the one now offered here for sale, based on Henry Lewis' drawings. His was by far the largest panorama of all, more than a mile in length (twelve feet tall): 75,000 square feet of canvas transported in several massive rolls across the United States, Europe, and finally the Far East where it disappeared.

 

"We came to the celebrated city of Nauvoo," wrote Lewis at the end of July, 1848, where, as the sun was just setting, we encamped and I immediately hurried up to take a look at the temple and see it by sunset." Lewis' diary and six sketches of Nauvoo still survive (the latter at the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis). The expedition was conducted from a specially-designed craft dubbed the Menehaha . . .

The next morning, July 30th, we started from our encampment and floated down to the lower end of Nauvoo city. We stopped to take a look at the town and finish our examination of the temple by exploring the interior. . . .

Taking into consideration the circumstances under which it was built it is a wonderful building and considering too that it is of no particular style it dones [does] not in the least offend the eye by its uniqueness like all most all innovation from old established standards do. . . . It bears a nearer resemblance to the Bysantium of [or] Roman Grecian style than any other altho' the capitals and bases are entirely unique still the cornices are Grecian in part. [quoted from various sources by Arrington, p. 209]

 

 

 

The treasure itself!
Illustration cropped above; for the full plate, see the bottom of this page.

 

 

 

Here, then, is a scarce treasure of Mormon history and illustration. The rendering (like the simple woodcut by John Rowson Smith) is not absolutely precise, but it is certainly lovely and important. Arrington notes minor points of difference from the actual structure . . .

Lewis's notebook sketch of the whole temple is fragmentary, but it contains some of the essential elements of the building and its ornament as an architect would record them. It shows the main body of the walls, with the cornice and attic front, without the steeple or roof balustrades. It has a high basement, requiring eight front steps to reach the portals. Only some of the pilasters, windows, and triglyphs are drawn to indicate the ornamentation for the whole wall. Ten side pilasters are suggested, one more than the actual number. The cornice is shown, with its great projection, and a detail of its composition is set in. The attic front shows only its pilasters, with the balustrade pedestals suggested above.

The artist probably made other sketches of the temple, as this one is incomplete. There were some changes from this preliminary sketch to the final lithograph. At first the steps were only in front of the entrance, whereas later they mounted from each side of the portals, as well as in front of them. The number of side pilasters was changed to nine. Some details of the sketch, like the arched window transoms and the four keystones of the frieze windows, are not found in the generalized forms of the complete drawing.

The Lewis sketchbooks, first publicly displayed in the St. Louis Art Museum in 1949, furnish new materials on the Nauvoo Temple not previously seen by the public. [Arrington, pp. 209-10]

 

 

The modern viewer will also notice evident European influences on this plate, lithographed in Prussia: the northern-Continental style house to the right, the idyllic encroachment of nature almost up to the Temple itself (actually located at the heart of the fully-developed Mormon city), and the attire of the spectators (what is that dog doing?) . . .

 

 

Henry Lewis moved to Düsseldorf in the early 1850s after showing his panorama in the Netherlands and Germany. He was undoubtedly drawn to that city by its renowned Academy of Painting established in 1767. I note that when Lewis first went to Düsseldorf, its art academy was directed by the religious and historical painter Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow-Godenhaus (1789-1862), a member of a distinguished German family of artists. Yet as much as we delight in finding this appealing scene from our Mormon past, we cannot pretend that this is great art. Rather, it fits the time and genre one might most likely expect of such a production. ". . . Schadow was qualified to shine less as a painter than as a teacher and director.," according to Joseph Beavington Atkinson . . .

Schadow was in 1819 appointed professor in the Berlin Academy, and his ability and thorough training gained devoted disciples. To this period belong his pictures for churches. In 1826 the professor was made director of the Düsseldorf Academy. The high and sacred art matured in Rome Schadow transplanted to Düsseldorf; he reorganized the Academy, which in a few years grew famous as a centre of Christian art to which pupils flocked from all sides. In 1837 the director selected, at request, those of his scholars best qualified to decorate the chapel of St. Apollinaris on the Rhine with frescoes, which when finished were accepted as the fullest and purest manifestation of the Düsseldorf school on its spiritual side. To 1842 belong the "Wise and Foolish Virgins," in the Städel Institute, Frankfort; this large and important picture is carefully considered and wrought, but lacks power. Schadow's fame indeed rests less on his own creations than on the school he formed. In Düsseldorf a reaction set in against the spiritual and sacerdotal style he had established; and in 1859 the party of naturalism, after a severe struggle, drove the director from his chair. Schadow died at Düsseldorf in 1862, and a monument in the platz which bears his name was raised at the jubilee held to commemorate his directorate. ["Schadow," in The Encyclopaeædia Britannica (Eleventh Edition, 1911)]

Did Schadow and his school influence Lewis' final rendering of the Nauvoo Temple? Lewis found the "place so congenial that he lived there the rest of his long life, which ended in 1904." (Arrington, p. 207). Twenty years ago, I saw a copy of Das Illustrirte Mississippithal in an obscure booth at an antiquarian book fair in the East. As the aging bookseller brought out the volume, experienced collectors and dealers crowded around in awe to view the rarity! What would the British-born American expatriate to Prussia have thought, to view such eagerness over his rare lithographs? This is probably a once-in-a-career item for Rick Grunder - Books. I do not expect to obtain an original example of this Nauvoo plate again.

Photograph of Lewis in later life:

 

 

 


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the full plate (as offered for sale, without frame), showing generous margins

 

 

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