The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

  • The interoceanic channel.

  • Breakthrough of the Isthmus of Panama.

    ROTY Louis-Oscar (1846 - 1911)

  • Breakthrough of the Isthmus of Panama.

    ROTY Louis-Oscar (1846 - 1911)

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Title: The interoceanic channel.

Author :

Creation date : 1880

Date shown: 1880

Dimensions: Height 23.4 - Width 31.5

Technique and other indications: View of the various localities that the canal must cross Sounder station - A virgin forest against the Rio-chagres - The Panama cathedral - The statue of Christopher Columbus, raised in Colon - The bay of Panama, view taken from a turret of the old fortifications - The quays of Colon - Pottery around Panama - A corner of Flamenco Island - The Grand Hotel de Panama According to the photos communicated by François de Lesseps, taken from Illustrated world, April 1880, engraving by H. Scott.

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Photographer unknown website

Picture reference: 07-532474 / invgravures5471

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - Photographer unknown

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Title: Breakthrough of the Isthmus of Panama.

Author : ROTY Louis-Oscar (1846 - 1911)

Creation date : 1880

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 3.5 - Width 3.5

Technique and other indications: Silver medal; obverse.

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 00-025925 / MEDOR1994

Breakthrough of the Isthmus of Panama.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

To close

Title: Breakthrough of the Isthmus of Panama.

Author : ROTY Louis-Oscar (1846 - 1911)

Creation date : 1880

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 3.5 - Width 3.5

Technique and other indications: Silver medal; setback.Registration : Panama Canal / Universal Interoceanic Canal Company / 7 - 8 - 9 December 1880 / To its subscribers / The Parisian bank

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 00-025929 / MEDOR1994

Breakthrough of the Isthmus of Panama.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: September 2011

Historical context

1880 or the beginnings of the "French project"

After completing the construction of the Isthmus of Suez, Ferdinand de Lesseps embarked on the Panama Canal project, which is to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Became president of the jury of the International Congress of the Interoceanic Canal organized by the Société de géographie de Paris, he founded in 1879 the Universal Company of the Interoceanic Canal of Panama, bought the concession rights authorizing the construction and raised the first funds necessary to finance the works. .

Ferdinand de Lesseps went there, where he witnessed the first blow of the pickaxe, given in January 1880 and which then marked the beginning of the “French project”. The Illustrated World of April 1880 devotes several pages to this event and returns in particular to the route that the canal must follow, from Panama to Colon (now in Panama, formerly in Colombia), as illustrated The interoceanic channel, engraving made from photographs transmitted to the newspaper by de Lesseps himself.

To celebrate this new adventure, which we hope will be as glorious as that of Suez, a special medal entitled Breakthrough of the Isthmus of Panama is edited, confirming the "historical" importance given to this endeavor.

Image Analysis

Panama Images

Engraving The interoceanic channel represents nine views of Panama. From left to right and from top to bottom, readers of the monthly discover "a polling station", "the statue of Christopher Columbus raised in Colon", a "pottery around Panama," a virgin forest against the Rio-Chagres "," Panama Bay, view taken from a turret of the old fortifications "," a corner of Flamenco Island "," the Cathedral of Panama "," the quays of Colon "and" the grand hotel of Panama " .

The medal Breakthrough of the Isthmus of Panama was produced by Louis-Oscar Roty, famous French medalist. Allegorical in style, its face represents the handshake of two men looking like Greek gods, which symbolizes the meeting of the two oceans. They are placed under the aegis of a female figure not unlike that of the Republic - Roty is also the author of the famous Sower which appears on the 1 franc coins - which unites them in a protective gesture. The obverse bears an inscription which evokes the occasion and the potential recipients: even if this medal is intended for all collectors, we can also assume that it is offered to “subscribers” who have purchased shares of the Universal Company of the Panama Interoceanic Canal.

Interpretation

Between description and symbol

Conceived as a sort of educational and exhaustive postcard, the lithography shows, in a fairly sober style, the natural elements (more or less wild), the “civilization” of the cities, the “economic” activity of the natives (the pottery) and the history (reference to Columbus) of the places. If the representation is objective, it is also suggestive. The evocation of Columbus brings the piercing of the canal closer to the great adventures and great historical journeys that changed the face of the world.

More allegorical, the medal evokes the road and the journey by showing that the exchange between the two men / gods is also that of cultures and wealth. The compass (or square) that can be seen at the bottom refers to the sciences and techniques which enabled the construction of the canal. Finally, the female figure can be seen as a patriotic allusion to Marianne: the project is indeed “French”, symbol (like Suez) of the republican values ​​of progress and civilization.

  • Panama Canal
  • medal
  • channel

Bibliography

Marc de BANVILLE, French Canal, the illustrated adventure of the French in Panama (1880-1904), Panama, Editions Canal Valley, 2003. Ghislain de DIESBACH, Ferdinand de Lesseps, Paris, Perrin, 1998. Benoît HEIMERMANN, Suez et Panama, the fabulous epic of Ferdinand de Lesseps, Paris, Arthaud, 1996.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The Panama Canal"


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