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Maritime Art, Military, French, L’Enseigne Bisson, Antique Print, Paris, 1828


Octave Tassaert (1800-1874) (after)
Ducarme (act. early 19th C.) (lithographer)
Trait Sublime de Courage de L’Enseigne Bisson
Osterwald Aîné, Paris: 1828
Hand-colored lithograph
11.75 x 17 inches, image
14 x 18 inches, overall

Dramatic scene of pirates boarding a French corsair, as panicked sailors jump overboard, just before the heroic death of the ship’s commander, Ensign Henri Bisson (1796-1827), who blew it up rather than surrender it to the pirates. The sole survivor was Bisson’s second in command, the pilot Trementin, who was thrown into the water. Even after being seriously injured, he managed to swim to safety.

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Corsairs, or privateers, were armed, privately-owned ships authorized to fight or harass ships belonging to enemies of France, on behalf of the French Crown. Bisson was a young marine officer serving with a French corsair fleet charged with patrolling the pirate-infested waters of the Levant when it captured a Greek pirate ship, the Pantayotis, and Bisson was directed to take it to Smyrna, accompanied by another ship, the Magicienne. The two ships were separated in high winds and Bisson was forced to drop anchor on the rocks of the island of Stampalie. After two of the captured pirates escaped, Bisson suspected they would return with others, and told Trémentin that if they were attacked, he planned to sink the ship. His crew was outnumbered, and after a valiant struggle, the wounded Bisson called out to his men, “Save yourselves, jump into the sea!” Turning to Trémentin, he added, “Adieu, pilot, this is the end.” Trémentin was ultimately rescued by the Magicienne and was promoted to ensign and awarded the cross of the Legion of Honor.

(Nicolas-François) Octave Tassaert was a French painter and lithographer. Tassaert came from a family of artists including his father and grandfather. While still a child, he was put to work as an engraver under the supervision of his brother Paul. He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1817 to study painting and was tutored there until 1825. Between 1825 and 1849, he drew numerous works for lithographs, focusing on marketable subjects demanded by publishers: historical, genre, military, mythological, allegorical and religious pictures. He also illustrated the novels of French authors such as Hugo, Dumas and Chateaubriand. Eventually he received recognition for his paintings, debuting at the Salon in 1831 and exhibiting the Death of Correggio there in 1834, now in the Hermitage Museum. His greatest renown came as a genre painter of the poor, notably Unhappy Family (1849-50), now in the collection of the Louvre. His paintings are in numerous other museum collections, including Versailles.

Ducarme was a lithographer active at the beginning of the 19th century. He is especially known for his portrait prints, some after artists such as Raphael and Titian, and a series of prints after the self-portraits of painters.

Caption below title: “L’Enseigne de Vaisseau Bisson, chargé du commandement de la prise du Corsaire Le Panagyote, plutôt que de render le Navire, descend mettre le feu aux poudres. Le pilote Trémentin, second de l’Enseigne Bisson, a sauté avec le vaisseau, mais quoique blessé il s’est sauvé à la nage. Il est de retour à Paris, où il vient d’être nommé Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur.”

Translation: [Ship’s Ensign Bisson, charged with the command of the prize of the corsair Le Panagyote, rather than giving up the vessel, leans over to set fire to the gunpowder. The pilot Trémentin, second in command to Ensign Bisson, went down with the vessel, but although wounded managed to save himself by swimming. He returned to Paris, where he came to be named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.]

Full publication information: A Paris, chez Osterwald aîné, Quai des Augustins, No. 37.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling, soft creases. Margins a bit short, typical for separately issued prints, still sufficient for framing. Overall with bright colors and attractive.


Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 3, p. 362 (Ducarme), Vol. 8, p. 227 (Tassaert).

Béraldi, Henri. Les Graveurs de XIXe Siècle. Vol. 12. Paris: L. Conquet, 1892. pp. 76-82.

Bibliographie de la France, ou, Journal général de l’imprimerie et de la librairie, XVIIe Année. Paris: Pillet Ainé, 1828. p. 208. Online at Google Books. (6 October 2011).

Duckett, William. Dictionnaire de la Conversation et de la Lecture, Inventaire Raisonné des Notions Générales les Plus Indispensables a Tous. Vol. 3. Paris: Aux Comptoirs de la Direction, 1856. p. 247. Online at Google Books. (6 October 2011).

Muraise, Eric. Sainte Anne et la Bretagne. Editions Fernand Lanore, 1980. p. 76. Online at Google Books. (6 October 2011).

Turner, Jane. The Grove Dictionary of Art: From Monet to Cezanne. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. p. 408.

Additional information


19th Century