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Interior of Rosslyn Chapel

Louis-Jacques Mandé Daguerre

(1787 - 1851) | 2004.3.1

Date : 1824 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Dating from 1824, this painting is one Daguerre’s masterpieces. Few such works by this artist remain, his contribution to the invention of photography almost entirely eclipsing his career as a painter. This view of the internal architecture of a chapel with its striking chiaroscuro is contemporaneous with a large-scale version, without figures, that was presented in Paris in the same year at the audio-visual spectacles known as ‘dioramas’ which took place on the rue Samson (the same location Daguerre used to finalise his photographic process).

At this time, the artist was exhibiting smaller versions of the compositions he used in his theatre of illusions, founded in partnership with Charles-Marie Bouton. These paintings, as the magnificent example here in Rouen demonstrates, should in general be viewed less as preparatory works and rather as the variations on a theme that made these dioramas so successful.

After Paris, the Rosslyn Chapel diorama was shown in London, Dublin, Liverpool and Edinburgh between 1826 and 1835 and met with huge success. The sound of bagpipes playing accompanied the spectacle during which shifting effects of light and half-light brought the scenes to life, creating miraculous illusions.

Rosslyn Chapel is near Edinburgh and was undoubtedly part of the more extensive structure that formed the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, an example of the large collegiate churches established in Scotland during the 15th century between the reigns of James I and James IV[AM1] . Rosslyn Chapel abounds with legends, in particular the story of the Apprentice Pillar and the Master Pillar. It has also inspired novelists past and present, from Sir Walter Scott with The Lay of the Last Minstrel to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, where the author taps into the myth that links the mysterious carvings that adorn the chapel with the Holy Grail that might be hidden there.

 [AM1]Dans la version française les rois d’Ecosse sont appelés Jean 1er et Jean IV mais cela devrait être plutôt Jacques 1er et Jacques IV (voir :'%C3%89cosse)