Castle of Chillon, Lake of Geneva

Lithographed and published by Currier & Ives American
Related author George Gordon Noel Byron, 6th Baron British

Not on view

Nathaniel Currier, whose successful New York-based lithography firm began in 1835, produced thousands of prints (most drawn on the stones by other artists) in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century American life and its history. The firm also published prints of picturesque scenes in Europe --this print being an example of a site in Switzerland. People eagerly acquired such lithographs featuring landscapes, city views, farm life, ships, railroads, portraits, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic activities and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments. As the firm expanded, Nathaniel included his younger brother Charles in the business. In 1857, James Merritt Ives (the firm's accountant since 1852 and Charles's brother-in-law) was made a business partner; subsequently renamed Currier & Ives, the firm continued until 1907.

Currier & Ives published this print of the Swiss Castle of Chillon in the early 1870s, probably to appeal to prospective customers who wished to have a picture of the spectacular place which inspired a popular Lord Byron poem. The Castle of Chillon is a medieval fortress situated on an islet at the east end of Lake Geneva, near Montreux, Switzerland. It is a picturesque tourist destination that became increasingly popular in the nineteenth century after the publication of a poem by Lord Byron (1788-1824), which the British poet wrote shortly after visiting the castle in 1816.

Imprinted beneath the image of this print are the last lines of Lord Byron's sonnet "The Castle of Chillon": "Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,/ And thy sad floor an altar for 'twas trod,/ Until his very steps have left a trace/ (lower right) Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod,/By Bonnivard! --May none those marks efface!/ For they appeal from tyranny to God./ BYRON." The dungeon where Bonnivard (François Bonivard, a sixteenth century Genevan patriot) was imprisoned at the Chateau de Chillon also inspired Lord Byron to write his longer narrative poem "The Prisoner of Chillon," which counts among his most celebrated.

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