Jules Dumont D'Urville - in The Aegean Sea

In The Aegean Sea

In 1819 Dumont d'Urville sailed on board the Chevrette, under the command of Captain Gauttier-Duparc, to carry out a hydrographic survey of the islands of the Greek archipelago. During a pause near the island of Milos, the local French representative brought to Dumont's attention the rediscovery of a marble statue a few days before (8 April 1820) by a local peasant. The statue, now known as the Venus de Milo dates from around the year 130 BC. Dumont recognised its value and would have acquired it immediately, but the ship’s commander pointed out that there was not enough space on board for an object of its size. Moreover, the expedition was likely to proceed through stormy seas that could damage it. Dumont then wrote to the French ambassador to Constantinople about its discovery. The Chevrette arrived in Constantinople on 22 April and Dumont succeeded in convincing the ambassador to acquire the statue.

Meanwhile, the peasant had sold the statue to a priest, Macario Verghis, who wished to present it as a gift to an interpreter for the Sultan in Constantinople. The French ambassador's representative arrived just as the statue was being loaded aboard a ship bound for Constantinople and persuaded the island's primates (chief citizens) to annul the sale and honour the first offer. This earned Dumont the title of Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d'honneur, the attention of the French Academy of Sciences and promotion to lieutenant; and France gained a new, magnificent statue for the Louvre in Paris.

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