Hoüel, Jean-Pierre-Laurent (1735-1813)

The Cyclopes Island in the Bay of La Trizza. General View

France, between 1776 and 1779

Houel is best known as the author of preparatory sketches and engravings with an explanatory text to the four-volume publication A Picturesque Voyage Through the Isles of Sicily, Malta and Lipari, Which Deals with the Antiquities to Still Be Found There, the Principal Phenomena Offered by Nature, the Costume of the Inhabitants, and Some Customs... (Voyage pittoresque des isles de Sicile, de Malte et de Lipari... ; Paris, 1782-87). The Hermitage possesses 264 of over 500 sketches Houel produced during his four-year tour of Southern Italy between 1776 and 1779. These works are of unique historical and ethnographical value. Here we see the Cyclopes Islands or Faraglioni which surround the port of Aci Trezza, thus denying access to large vessels. In his diary, Houel emphasized that the three largest islands, of pyramidal form, owed their origin to an eruption by Mount Etna. In Homer's Odyssey the Cyclopes Islands are linked with the story of the Cyclops Polyphemus: these are the rocks which Polyphemus threw at Odysseus (Ulysses), who had blinded him by driving a stake through his single eye. Houel revealed his erudition as historian, ethnographer and geologist, combined with his talent as an artist. A master of the gouache technique, Houel painted quickly, confidently and lightly, easily conveying lighting and atmospheric effects.


The Cyclopes Island in the Bay of La Trizza. General View




gouache, outlined with brush in dark grey wash


29x42,5 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1781; purchased from the artist for Empress Catherine II by F.M. Grimm

Inventory Number:





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