« Botanical dreams » - Call for applications for an exhibition

26 Octobre 2017 - 18 Février 2018

The Pôle Bijou of the Community of Communes of the Lunéville-to-Baccarat Territory wishes to create a cycle of events related to a famous personality who was born and lived in its territory: Charles Nicolas Sigisbert Sonnini de Manoncourt.

The purpose is to open the exhibition to contemporary creators in Jewelry and Finery. They will be invited to reinterpret the 18th century’s great passion for the flora (herbarium, drawings on boards, admission of new species...) or to find inspiration in Charles Nicolas Sigisbert Sonnini de Manoncourt’s  botanical texts (a bibliography is available on request).


About Charles Nicolas Sigisbert Sonnini de Manoncourt and botany


He was born in Lunéville in 1751, the fifth child of Barbe-Françoise Bainville and Nicolas-Charles-Sigisbert Sonnini. His father had abandoned Italy at the very beginning of the 18th century and settled in Lorraine to found « Les liqueurs de Lorraine », entering the service of the dukes, first Leopold, then Stanislas Leczinski (Louis XV’s father-in-law) who ennobled him in 1756.

Charles Nicolas Sigisbert Sonnini de Manoncourt received a degree of Doctor in philosophy (at the age of 15), then followed a law course in Strasbourg University and became a qualified barrister (at 17). Yet, to the displeasure of his family, he chose to join the Navy at 20 to accomplish his dream: travelling.

From the early age of 14, he kept up an extensive correspondence with Count de Buffon, later becoming his help in the completion of his “Natural History”. Moreover, Buffon placed very specific orders with him before his departures: “have a basketful of shellfish gathered in the Marmora Sea and another in the Black Sea. (…) In Cairo endeavour to take the trip to the Pyramids et compare with their description by De Maillet”.

His travel books are thus enriched with a quantity of observations: meteorology, various peoples’ culture and morphology, flora and fauna...

Many years later, when he returned, he settled in a small estate not far from Lunéville and there created gardens, cultivated the land and personally looked after all that. He determined to have his share in the improvement of agriculture in the current départements of Meurthe-et-Moselle and Vosges. He successfully attempted to introduce various exotics (the swede from Lapland or rutabaga, the tufted vetch or Canada pea, the fenugreek or Trigonella foenum-graecum, the dame’s violet or Hesperis matronalis…) whose seeds he handed out to the peasants free of charge. Impelled by his desire to feed the people, he also carried out surprising experiments such as implanting the peanut in Lorraine to make oleaginous plants available to the locals.

He said: “If there is an art whose principles must be easy to grasp, whose operations are carried out simply and without trouble, it sure is Husbandry. Dedicated to raising from the earth’s bosom the treasures of an ever-recurring affluence, to apportion the various means of surviving and getting clothed among all those living around the globe, it keeps a multitude of arms busy, and chooses as its many agents the men who are the closest to nature, those who are born, live, die and follow one another on the very fields they are destined to fertilize”.