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Deaf History: The Public Lecture, 1815.


The Public Lecture, 1815. 30 x 40 inch Oil on Canvas SOLD click on image to enlarge

Description about the painting and the work involved:

In the painting, there are nine people who were presented at the Public Lectures, (they were there at different times. I decided to put all nine together in the painting.) They are Abbe Sicard (long white hair), Jean Massieu (sitting on a red chair with a slate, signing 'Mind'), Laurent Clerc (signing 'L'education'), Armand Godard (young man aged between 18-21 sitting at the right end of the table), Duke of Orleans (standing next to Laurent Clerc), Duke of Kent (bald and standing next to Duke of Orleans), Duchess of Wellington (sitting next to Massieu), Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (holding the leaflet) and the mystery woman (sitting next to Godard).

There were about six lectures during the Summer of 1815, in the Argyle Room at the Old Ship Rooms, in Brighton, England.

You can see the leaflet in Gallaudet's hand. The actual leaflet is displayed at the American School for the Deaf Museum in Hartford, CT that belonged to Gallaudet. He found the leaflet in England and was curious to visit the Public Lectures. He was in England to meet with the Braidwood family, not knowing that Sicard, Massieu, Clerc and Godard were there. This is how Gallaudet met Laurent Clerc for the first time at the Public Lectures.

The sign language in the painting, is the Old French Sign Language (OFSL.) I first contacted the two people for specific french signs and came to a total of six people with the right signings! I have received some copies of Lambert's illustration of old French Sign Language in 1865. What an amazing illustration! There are two french fingerspellings with the mystery woman. What do they say? Who is the mystery woman?

England was a strong supporter of oralism with the monopoly of the Braidwood family over deaf education there. The British people did not know much about the French manual method of education of the deaf. The information on deaf education was spread into England.

The audience were the members of the House of Parliament, members of the nobility, the clergy, and the other public. They were impressed with the lectures made by 'deaf-mutes’ - an ability to learn to read and write and from Sicard’s skills in teaching the deaf. On a chalkboard and slate, there are Massieu and Clerc's answers to the questions shown by the audience. One from Clerc was about 'Education' and one from Massieu was about 'Mind is the source of intellect', both are written in french language.

The first encounter with Gallaudet and Sicard, Gallaudet was invited to travel to Paris a year after the Public Lectures, to learn the manual method of deaf education and sign language. That was what got Gallaudet bring Clerc to America and the rest became history. The 'Public Lectures' were somewhat - a lead towards 'a milestone' to deaf education in America. If Gallaudet had not met Sicard he would have never met Clerc.

I learned an interesting fact during my research -the Duchess of Wellington was informed during the public lectures that her husband, the Duke of Wellington, defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.'

I have been working on this painting for 8 weeks, researching, sketching and painting. The research was what took me the longest. Painting was a piece of cake. I enjoyed it-- tremendously. I put myself in the painting, that is, I was at the Public Lecture. This painting is inspired by American artist (1688-1751) John Smibert 'Bermuda Group'.

This painting, 'The Public Lecture, 1815.' could represent one of the most important parts in Deaf History.


Nancy Rourke

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Nancy Rourke paintings copyright. 2012
Last updated March 9, 2012