|Outina, 58.5 x 42.5 cm, by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues? Photo: La Dépêche.|
An ink and watercolour drawing depicting Outina, the Timucua chief (fl.1564-1565), and attributed to Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1533-1588) has just sold at auction in Toulouse for a staggering €160,000. It had been estimated at a more modest but still impressive €50,000/80,000. Local paper La Dépêche reported before and after the sale; a presale video can also be viewed.
There is no question as to the correspondence between this figure and the one which appears on Plate XVIII of Theodore de Bry's Grand voyages (1591), accompanying an account of the Jean Ribault and René Goulaine de Laudonnière's ill-fated attempt at colonizing northern Florida in 1564. This plate is one of 42 engravings, many of which show Timucua-speaking men and women who lived in northern Florida and southern Georgia, made after sketches by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues. Compare for yourselves:
The trouble with the auction business is that it is a business. Whatever research goes into identifying and documenting a lot is proprietary, and it is seldom made public. In hyping this particular artwork, the auctioneer and the reporters after him rather conveniently glossed over the possibility that this piece may not be by the hand of the master himself, and they also conveniently occulted the fact that the very nature and authenticity of Le Moyne's work are, in fact, highly disputed by scholars. Eminences such as Christian Feest and Jerald Milanich have questioned whether Le Moyne produced drawings of the Timucua at all, given the absence of any definite documentation and the hard-to-explain presence on those images of what look to be Pacific seashells and Brazilian clubs. At the very least, Le Moyne took liberties with his illustrations, perhaps considerable ones. Milanich concluded that : "Until someone finds an actual, documented le Moyne drawing or painting of Florida Indians, I am going to assume we have been duped." I wonder what he and Feest make of this latest find. Is this the real deal?