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XAVIER SIGALON (1788–1837)

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Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 59 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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XAVIER SIGALON (1788–1837), French painter, born at Uzes (Gard) towards the close of 1788, was one of the few leaders of the romantic movement who cared for treatment of form rather than of colour. The son of a poor rural schoolmaster, he had a terrible struggle before he was able even to reach Paris and obtain admission to Guerin's studio. But the learning offered there did not respond to his special needs, and he tried to train himself by solitary study of the Italian masters in the gallery of the Louvre. The " Young Courtesan" (Louvre), which he exhibited in 1822, at once attracted attention and was bought for the Luxembourg. The painter, however, regarded it as but an essay in practice and sought to measure himself with a mightier motive; this he did in his " Locusta " (Nimes), 1824, and again in " Athaliah's Massacre " (Nantes), 1827. Both these works showed incontestable power; but the "Vision of St Jerome " (Louvre), which appeared at the salon of 1831, together with the " Crucifixion " (Issengeaux), was by far the most individual of all his achievements, and that year he received the cross of the Legion of Honour. The terrors and force of his pencil were not, however, rendered attractive by any charm of colour; his paintings remained unpurchased, and Sigalon found himself forced to get a humble living at times by painting portraits, when Thiers, then minister of the interior, recalled him to Paris and entrusted him with the task of copying the Sistine fresco of the " Last Judgment " for a hall in the Palace of the Fine Arts. On the exhibition, in the Baths of Diocletian at Rome, of Sigalon's gigantic task, in which he had been aided by his pupil Numa Boucoiran, the artist was visited in state by Gregory XVI. But Sigalon was not destined long to enjoy his tardy honours and the comparative ease procured by a small government pension; returning to Rome to copy some pendants in the Sistine, he died there of cholera on the 9th of August 1837. SI-GAN FU (officially Sian Fu), the capital of the province of Shen-si, N.W. China, in 340 17' N., roe 58' E. Shi Hwang-ti (246-210 B.C.), the first universal emperor, established his capital at Kwan-chung, the site of the modern Si-gan Fu. Under the succeeding Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 25) this city was called Wei-nan and Nui-shi; under the eastern Han (A.D. 25—221) it was known as Yung Chow; under the Tang (618-907) as Kwannui; under the Sung (960-1127) as Yung-hing; under the Yuan and Ming (1260-1644) as Gan-si. During the Ts'in, Han and rang dynasties the city was usually the capital of the empire, and in size, population and wealth it is still one of the most important cities of China. It was to Si-gan Fu that the emperor and dowager empress retreated on the capture of Peking by the allied armies in August 'goo; and it was once again constituted the capital of the empire until the following spring when the court returned to Peking, after the conclusion of peace. The city, which is a square, is prettily situated on ground rising from the river Wei, and includes within its limits the two district cities of Ch'ang-gan and Hien-ning. Its walls are little inferior in height and massiveness to those of Peking, while its gates are handsomer and better defended than any at the capital. The population is said to be 1,000,000, of whom 50,000 are Ivlaciommedans. Situated in the basin of the Wei river, along which runs the great road which connects northern China with Central Asia, at a point where the valley opens out on the plains of China, Si-gan Fu occupies a strategical position of great importance, and repeatedly in the annals of the empire has history been made around and within its walls. During the Mahommedan rebellion it was besieged by the rebels for two years (1868-70), but owing to the strength of the fortifications it defied the efforts of its assailants. It is admirably situated as a trade centre and serves as a depot for the silk from Chehkiang and Szech'uen, the tea from Hu-peh and Ho-nan, and the sugar from Szech'uen destined for the markets of Kan-suh, Turkestan, Kulja and Russia. Marco Polo, speaking of Kenjanfu, as the city was then also called, says that it was a place " of great trade and industry. They have great abundance of silk, from which they weave cloths of silk, and gold of divers kinds, and they also manufacture all sorts of equipments for an army. They have every necessary of man's life very cheap." Several of the temples and public buildings are very fine, and many historical monuments are found within and about the walls. Of these the most notable is the Nestorian tablet, which was accidentally discovered in 1625 in the Ch'ang-gan suburb. The stone slab which bears the inscription is 72 ft. high by 3 wide. The contents of this Nestorian inscription, which consists of 1780 characters, may be described as follows. (1) An abstract of Christian doctrine of a vague and figurative kind. (2) An account of the arrivalof the missionary Olopan (probably a Chinese form of Rabban =-Monk) from Tats'in in the year 635, bringing sacred books and images; of the translation of the said books; of the imperial approval of the doctrine and permission to teach it publicly. Then follows a decree of the emperor (Tait-sung, a very famous prince), issued in 638, in favour of the new doctrine, and ordering a church to be built in the square of justice and peace (Thing fang) in the capital. The emperor's portrait was to be placed in this church. After this comes a description of Tats'in, and then some account of the fortunes of the church in China. Kaotsung (650-683, the devout patron also of the Buddhist traveller and doctor Hsuan Ts'ang), it is added, continued to favour the new faith. In the end of the century Buddhism got the upper hand, but under Yuen-tsung (713-755) the church recovered its prestige, and Kiho, a new missionary, arrived. Under Tih-tsung (780-783) the monument was erected, and this part of the inscription ends with a eulogy of I-sze, a statesman and benefactor of the church. (3) Then follows a recapitulation of the above in octosyllabic verse. The Chinese inscription, which concludes with the date of erection, viz. 781, is followed by a series of short inscriptions in Syriac and the Estrangelo character, containing the date of the erection, the name of the reigning Nestorian patriarch, Mar Henan Ishua, that of Adam, bishop and pope of China, and those of the clerical staff of the capital. Then follow sixty-seven names of persons in Syriac characters, most of whom are characterized as priests, and sixty-one names of persons in Chinese, all priests but one. The stone—one of a row of five memorial tablets—stood within the enclosure of a dilapidated temple. It appears at one time to have been embedded in a brick niche, and about 1891 a shed was placed over it, but in 1907 it stood in the open entirely unprotected. In that year Dr Frits v. Holm, a Danish traveller, had made an exact replica of the tablet, which in 1908 was deposited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The tablet itself was in October 1907 removed by Chinese officials into the city proper, and placed in the Pei Lin or " forest of tablets," a museum in which are collected tablets of the Han, Tang, Sung, Yuen and Ming dynasties, some of which bear historical legends, notably a set of stone tablets having the thirteen classics inscribed upon them, while others are symbolical or pictorial; among these last is a full-sized likeness of Confucius. Antiquities are constantly being discovered in the neighbourhood of the city, e.g. rich stores of coins and bronzes, bearing dates ranging from 200 B.C. onwards. See Yule, Marco Polo (1903 ed.) ; A. Williamson, Journeys in North China (London, 1870), S. Wells Williams, The Middle Kingdom (London, 1883) ; Pere Havret, La Stele de Si-ngan Fou (Shanghai, 1895-1902) ; F. v. Holm, The Nestorian Monument (Chicago, 1909).
End of Article: XAVIER SIGALON (1788–1837)
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