The ‘Antipodes de Paris’
On 3 July 1815, the French defence of Paris was overcome by the Prussians at the Battle of Issy, leading the Conseil de Défense to surrender. As the forces of the Seventh Coalition prepared to reconquer the capital, Louis XVIII gathered a Cabinet topographique du Roi and commissioned Pierre Lapie, a commercial map-maker for the Bastien and Langlois manufactures, to chart this reversal of power in a terrestrial globe. This piece aimed to represent, allegorically as much as scientifically, the ‘antipodes of Paris’. Dedicated to the Duchesse d’Angoulême, the only living child of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, this globe solemnised the re-establishment of the Bourbon succession.
The geographical details offer evidence of the political nature of this object: France was depicted within the lines of its former pré carré, and the trajectories of four ancien regime explorers were shown, such as those of Columbus in 1492-1493 and those of Bougainville in 1768-1769. Yet, what appears intriguing is that, as a token of monarchical loyalism, this globe syncretised a residual symbolism of the Napoleonic conquests with aspirations to restore an exiled vision of the world. This is particularly evident in the choice of Egyptian columns to uphold the globe’s table. The depiction of Tasmania, as an island, was also up-to-date and informed by both Flinders’ discoveries and Baudin and Freycinet’s map of the Australian coastline published in 1811, which suggests the ambivalent nature of the information and symbols mobilised in this piece. This melange was partly owing to the fact Pierre Lapie had developed his trade under Napoleon, and sold his globes as elegant ornaments to the French imperial elites before serving the Bourbons in their attempt to refashion themselves in time and space after Waterloo.
Overall, this ambiguous globe is a powerful testament that geography developed in close affinity with state-formation during the period, and that its purpose was to address political as much as scientific and commercial interests.
Jerry Brotton, Trading Territories: Mapping the Early Modern World (London: Reaktion, 1997)
Elly Dekker, Globes at Greenwich (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)
Anne Godlewska, Geography Unbound: French Geographic Science from Cassini to Humboldt (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).