Description: Reproduction of the plate in Captain Laplace’s travel journal
Artist: Cyrille Pierre Théodore Laplace
Medium: Lithograph from a watercolor
Narrative: In 1786 Lapérouse’s artist Duché de Vancy had observed Monterey’s Carmel Mission in its infancy with only a few primitive buildings packed with Indian neophytes rigorously ruled by the Spanish padres. In 1839 Captain Cyrille Pierre Théodore Laplace (1793-1875) and his lieutenant François Edmond Pâris (1806-1893) saw the same mission in its old age, empty of men and cattle, its completed structures, high roofs, and walls crumbling away. The padres were only nominally in charge by then. The well-intended secularization, begun in 1834 and meant to turn mission land and cattle over to the natives, had failed. The sites had been taken over instead by a few influential rancheros and, no longer tended, had fallen into ruin.
Pâris, who had trained at the Navy School of Angoulème, produced a small-size watercolor of the dilapidated mission (space was scarce during such long voyages, only small-size paper and easy-to-store watercolors were used).
Captain Laplace, himself an excellent artist, later reproduced Pâris’s evocative view in lithographic form in his official six-volume report, which contains more than twenty lithographed views and sketches by his talented lieutenant. He made very few changes to Pâris’s original composition.