« AnteriorContinuar »
Crusades had permeated from the soldier to the trader, and as security was found in society, the merchants of those days made commercial pilgrimages and interchanged merchandise at certain times and given places of resort. Some of these fairs survive to our days, the most notable being those of Leipzig and Nijni-Novgorod.
The former of these traces back its origin to the 12th century, when license was granted by the Kaisers to hold biennial fairs at Easter and Michaelmas. A third annual fair was first inaugurated with the new year of 1458, and the right to hold three fairs annually was confirmed by an edict of Maximilian the First in 1508. Leipzig is thus linked with trade, poetry, education, and history with trade in its well-known fairs, with poetry in Goëthe's "Faust" and Gounod's music, with education in its world-known University, and with history in the names of Napoléon and Poniatowski; and even to those travellers who may ignore all these, the claims of the Auerbach Keller will assert themselves through its wines and suppers; the former famous as in the days when
Doctor Faustus, on that tyde,
As many a mother's son did see.
In France a great impetus was given to trade in the fifteenth century, when silk manufactories were first established in Lyons in the year 1450, nor did individual enterprise remain idle, for to the Marquis de Fulvy is due the inception of the great porcelain factory of Sèvres, his speculation at Vincennes being the parent of that sold to the Fermiers Généraux, to be removed to Sèvres, and destined eventually to become, under King, Republic, Consul, Emperor, or President, one of the national glories of France. The great Colbert, too, has not only left his mark in the "Gobelins" (taking its name from the Flemish Brothers Gobelin, whose dyeing house was in the Rue Mouffetard)and the taste which prompted him to appoint Lebrun as the first designer yet survives in its masterpieces of tapestry-but to him is also due the "Académie Royale de Peinture, d'Architecture et de Sculpture," founded in 1664, into the inner circle of which not only painters, architects, and sculptors, but also designers of woodwork, ornament or furniture were admissible.
The doctrine of the survival of the fittest is manifested in the annually recurring fair of Nijni-Novgorod, extending over nearly two months. This dates back to the year 1648, when at Makarieff a fair was instituted lasting
but five days. The facilities for foreign trade were increased, however, in 1691, and in a little more than half a century the concourse of visitors had so increased in number that in 1750 a wooden edifice capable of containing 800 booths was erected. This in turn proved so inadequate that in 1809 another building, also of wood, but holding 1,400 shops, was built, to be further supplemented round the main bazaar by 1,800 sheds. When, however, this latest erection was burnt down, the locale of the fair was removed by an Imperial Ukase to Nijni-Novgorod, where at present an iron structure (with open galleries carried on iron columns forming ways of communication), and having 48 blocks, comprising in all 2,500 shops, affords accommodation for the motley mixture of merchants drawn not only from the realm of "All the Russias," but even from China, Thibet, and Persia, to all of whom it serves as an annual magnet of attraction.
There is another fair as noteworthy, though not so noted, as Leipzig, as respectable too in its antiquity, for it can trace its origin back to the fifth Crusade, the thirteenth century, the defeat of the Crusaders, and the capture of Louis, Saint and King, and this is the great Egyptian Fair of Tantah. Held at Midsummer and lasting for a week, more picturesque in its surroundings than either Leipzig or Nijni-Novgorod, it is to the full as International in its concourse and commerce. Seated in the heart of the Delta, on the direct railway route from Alexandria to Cairo, at the junction of the branch line to Mansourah and Damietta (the former the place where the Cross went down before the Crescent), and inhabited mostly by "fellahs," Tantah has neither houses to receive travellers nor bazaars to display goods, so the vast plain on either side of the railway is, in fair-time, studded by thousands of tents. During the day a motley multitude surges through the canvas streets, some to buy, some to sell, Levantines in their baggy Bretonlike pantaloons, Albanians in "fustanellas" of myriad plaits and snowy whiteness, their greaves and jackets gay with gold embroidery, bearing an armoury of yataghans and silver-mounted pistols in their belts, keen-eyed Armenians in showy satin vests and frock-like coats with bright silk-lined hanging sleeves, Persians in black Astrachan "kalpacs," Greek merchants in fezes, and wealthy "Fellahs" in snow-white turbans jostle against Bedawins in bournous with guns slung over their shoulders, Turkish ladies, with their gay silk costumes, covered by the black "habbáras," Turks in quaker-collared coats, their swarthy necks unrelieved by even a glimpse of white, Syrians clad in costly "abbayáhs," Polish Jews in greasy gaberdines,
and with those still greasier curls also affected by the Easterns of London Hebrews of Algiers and Morocco, black-bearded and bronzed, stately descendants of the once "chosen people," in their handsome robes and rich turbans, "Fellahines," in "yasmaks," most of them having, like a lieutenant in the Royal Navy of byegone days, an epaulet on one shoulder, only in their case it takes the guise of a little black child scantily clad as Hans Breitman's mermaid, and, needless to say, the ubiquitous Englishmen in puggaree.
Consider this crowd, set before them booths for the sale of cutlery from Birmingham or Germany; arms from Damascus; silks from Syria; woollens and embroidery from Persia, glassware from Austria; Arab, Turkish, and Syrian jewellery, nacre work from Bethlehem, gold and silver embroidery, toys, clothes, pipe-stems, leather, shoes, sweets, "Rahat-Lakoum," "Raki;" add to all this cafés, gaming booths, and rows of houses where "Almées" dance to the music of tambourine, “darabouka" or drum, and “el-oud” or lute, light up this scene at sundown with thousands of vari-coloured lamps till it seems an Egyptian Feast of Lanterns-take it by day or night, and few will say that Tantah as an International Fair is not the worthy peer of either NijniNovgorod or Leipzig.
We, must, however look, after a long interval, from the pageant at Venice to the Exhibition at Leyden in 1699, held in the theatre of that city. If we are to judge by the catalogue, the collection must have itself commended strongly to the curious, not to say the morbid. Mr. John Hollingshead notes amongst the marvels, "a Norway house, built of beams, without mortar or stone; the hand "of a mermaid; a crocodile; and several thunderbolts." From whence the last-mentioned were obtained, or where they had fallen, is not stated. There were also the bifurcated garments of a Laplander, called in the catalogue by a briefer name; the chair of a Mrs. Gamp of the period, also, set down in choice Anglo-Saxon, and what we must esteem a calumny as the model only was shown, "a murdering knive, found in England," whereon was written the highly Christian sentiment, "Kil the males, rost the females, and burn the whelps," the distinction between the two latter processes being rather confused. A Roman lamp, "which burns always under ground," found itself in the congenial society of a Persian tobacco pipe, whilst anatomy asserted its right to be present, in the "stomach of a man," "the skin of a woman, prepared like leather," and "the ears and tongue of a thief," sex unnamed, "who had been hanged." Then as we have the "snout of a sawfish," a mushroom," which denied its title, being "100 years old," "Arabian
jewels, East Indian corals, Egyptian linen, Chinese songs and Chinese beer,” (whether the jodeling and the drinking were for manifest reasons named together is unhappily not chronicled,) there can remain no doubt that in respect of variety and selection of countries, this Leyden Exhibition must, in one sense at least, claim the title of International. As to the question of taste, that must remain an open one, though whether the generation that paid to see Julia Pastrana alive, and even patronized the exhibition of her embalmed remains and those of her little child can afford to carp at the refinement shown in those days by the worthy Leydeners, is, to say the least, doubtful.
To pass on from this Exhibition, which might more properly be termed a museum, or rather a drag-net of things, in themselves neither rich nor rare, relying on the contrast more than on the merit, artistic or historic, of the exhibits, we come to the year 1756, when the Society of Arts first inaugurated its series of Fine Art Exhibitions, by offering prizes for improvements in the manufacture of tapestry, carpets, and porcelain, the articles exhibited being ranged in competition. This was followed in the year 1761 by an Exhibition of agricultural and other machinery, in the rooms of the Society, for which prizes were offered, and a gentleman engaged to explain the merits of the various objects, this individual combining in himself the powers of a Board of Commissioners and the attributes of a showman, and with this ended any attempt on our part for many years to create a National Exhibition.
It is indeed to the year 1797 (the year V. of the French Republic,) that we must look for the true initiation of National Exhibitions. In that year the Marquis d'Avèze conceived the idea of a collective display of the industries, originated by the Kings, and protected, when so much went down, by the People of France. His conception was to mass together the products of the art factories of Sèvres, the Gobelins, and the Savonnerie; his exhibition palace was ready to hand in the Château of St. Cloud, then as now dismantled and uninhabited, but still a palace; the Minister of the Interior, M. de Neufchâteau, was propitious, and all seemed favourable to the project.
So d'Avèze went to work with a will, the bare walls were hidden by priceless tapestries from the Gobelins, the floors covered with the carpets of the Savonnerie, the "Chambre de Mars" set apart for the picked porcelain of Sèvres, and this was the beginning of Fructidor. Everything promised well. ; in this same Chamber of Mars a Wheel of Fortune was to be set up; the prizes were contained in the Exhibition itself; daily the courtyard of the château was crowded with the carriages of the nobility that still remained
faithful to their darling Lutetia, and the day of opening was named, the 18th Fructidor.
Alas for the vanity of all earthly things! The previous day saw the gates of Paris placarded with the bills of the Directory, ordering all the nobility by name,—it was, indeed, easy to count their numbers, for exile, conscription, and the tumbril had thinned their ranks," to withdraw within twenty-four "hours to, at least, thirty leagues from Paris," and on this damnatory list was the name of d'Avèze.
Was ever projector so unfortunate? The success of his scheme assured; most marvellous of all, an Exhibition ready before the day of opening, an accident which has never happened since; he had sown well, and on good soil, the crop had ripened through the aid of his friends, now scattered as far and fast as postchaises and relays of horses could carry them; the artisans, who had gleaned something welcome from the purchases already made (doubly welcome in those days when bread was scarce and assignats still scarcer,) were looking forward to an abundant harvest, when the vexed question of a double danger was presented to him.
To remain was to court death; to fly was to cut off the possibility of return; for he and he alone was responsible for the contents of the château. But d'Avèze was a man of expedients; he sought out the Marshal d'Augereau, and obtaining from him a troop of dragoons, he forthwith placed them in charge of the château and its contents, and handing up the keys to the custodian, Maréchan, the Marquis placed himself with all dispatch outside the circle of conscription. In the next year, 1798 (the year VI. of the Republic), in the Maison d'Orsay, No. 667, Rue de Varennes, he realized the scheme, previously abortive, and the success of the display was so pronounced that the Minister Neufchâteau carried out another Exposition in the three last days of the same year. This first official Exhibition, with a total number of 110 exhibitors, was held in a temporary building in the Champs de Mars; in it not only the State industries, but the manufacturers of France, that is to say Paris, were represented. Thus Sèvres was set out side by side with Angoulème. Leroy displayed his watches, Boule and Gonthière their furniture, and de Thou and Grolier their typographical specimens; Vincent and David were sponsors for the sham classicism which in those days took the name of art, as lay figures, velvets, and bric-a-brac usurp the title in our times; and to propitiate the populace, Napoléon, flushed with his Italian conquests, added what may be termed a vagabond parade, the procession being marshalled in three divisions.