At some time between 1764 and 1772, the printmaker Filippo Morghen (ca. 1730-1808), a Florentine based in Naples, issued a curious set of ten etchings under the title Raccolta delle cose più notabili veduta dal cavaliere Wilde Scull, e dal sigr: de la Hire nel lor famoso viaggio dalla terra alla Luna, ‘A Collection of the most notable things seen by Sir Wilde Scull, and by M. de la Hire, in their famous voyage from the Earth to the Moon.’ Details from six of these prints follow below. The first of them shows part of the title-sheet, which describes the contents of the other etchings in the set, and dedicates them to ‘Guglielmo Amilton,’ that is to William Hamilton, then the British ambassador to the Neapolitan court.
The detail above is part of a scene depicting ‘a savage mounted on a winged serpent, fighting a monster resembling a porcupine.’ The one immediately below shows the same kind of spiny beast being lured toward a contraption intended to split it from head to tail. In the second image below, we are presented with a sail-powered lunar carriage. The remaining pair of details show ‘gourds that serve as dwellings safe from monsters,’ and ‘a boat that has as for a sail an enormous bird.’ The etchings’ ‘ornamental passages of chinoiserie,’ remind us that China would still then have been alien enough to most Europeans, that it might as well have been another world…
Morghen had arrived in Naples in 1752, to join the team of artists appointed by King Charles III. of Spain (also Charles VII. of the two Sicilies) then assembling an eight-volume opus documenting Le Antichità di Ercolano Esposte (The Antiquities discovered in Herculaneum). Besides these archæological illustrations, Morghen also produced Vedute (‘views’) of other local antiquities and of the picturesque environs of Naples: these found ready buyers in the ‘grand tourists’ (many of whom were English), for whom that city was a fashionable destination. Between 1766 and 1769, Morghen executed a series of forty vedute, published as Le Antichità di Pozzuoli, Baja, e Cuma which he individually dedicated to native noblemen or distinguished foreigners, Hamilton and his (first) wife among them.
While Morghen seems to have invented the name of one of his astronauts—Sir Wilde Scull—the other, Philippe de la Hire was that of an historical fugure, a notable astronomer and mathematician. Apparently, in a later printing of his Raccolta, Morghen replaced Sir Wilde’s name with John Wilkins’s… A few more of Morghen’s prints can be seen here. The Raccolta, I notice, was recently mentioned here. I am much obliged to Michelangelo for bringng these images to my attention.Posted by misteraitch at July 5, 2006 12:55 PM