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BENJAMIN MARY (1792-1846)
The Belgian diplomat, amateur artist and botanist Benjamin Mary was born in Mons, the son of a lawyer. After schooling in Enghien, he studied law at the University of Brussels. Following a brief career in domestic politics he was nominated the first Belgian chargé d'affaires to Brazil in July 1832. Based in Rio de Janeiro, he spent five years in Brazil. He signed Belgium up to the commercial treaty Brazil had signed with the Dutch in 1828, winning him the plaudits of Leopold I and the order of the Cruzeiro from the Brazilian government. He travelled in Brazil, visiting Olinda and Salvador, and, outside his professional activities, spent his time sketching and botanising. A number of his drawings were lithographed for Spix and Martius' Flora Brasiliensis and a number of his original Brazilian drawings survive: the work for Flora Brasiliensis is in the Hans von Martius collection in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, and there are further drawings and lithographs in the collections of, amongst others, the Fundação Maria Luísa e Oscar Americano, Sao Paulo, the Biblioteca do Itamaraty, Brasilia and Paulo Fontainha Geyer, Rio de Janeiro. Mary's empty leather portfolio stamped 'B.MARY. Souvenirs du Bresil./I.' accompanies lot 26, and the majority of these drawings are believed by his family to have been dispersed, and returned to Brazil, in the twentieth century.
For Mary's Brazilian work, see G. Ferrez, Album de Desenhos Antigos dos Arredores do Rio de Janeiro de Benjamin Mary (1792-1846), Brussels, 1974.
After Brazil, Mary's next posting was to Athens where he arrived in 1839, concluding a commercial treaty with Greece the following year. He continued to sketch and toured the eastern Mediterranean from his base in Greece (see lots 28 and 29). With his health failing, he was recalled to Brussels in May 1846, travelled to Italy in July 1846 and then to France. Seeking a cure at Bagnères-de-Luchon on the Franco-Spanish border, he succumbed to apoplexy there on 2 August 1846.
Apart from the present sheets, sketchbooks and album of panoramas, three albums of his work in Greece, Asia Minor, Cyprus and Egypt have survived, along with the works in Munich and in Brazilian collections.