Historical Discovery

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Father Joseph Paret
Father Joseph Paret.

Lost Treasures Discovered

In 1987, the journal and fifty-three watercolor paintings of Father Joseph Michel Paret, artist and pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Destrehan from 1848 to 1869, were “discovered” by historian and writer Marcel Boyer who learned of their existence through correspondence with a Louisiana family (Pages 67–74 contain color images of eleven of Father Paret’s paintings). The journal and paintings were in the possession of Paret’s relatives in France. The aged paintings were color-corrected to reveal their original clarity. They provide a unique and unparalleled look at life in prosperous St. Charles Parish only two years before the beginning of the Civil War. Most of the plantations and other buildings depicted did not survive the Civil War or the ravages of time. Excerpts from the journal provide a further glimpse into life on the German Coast from 1848 to 1869.

In 2001, a book entitled, Plantations by the River, featuring twenty-eight out of fifty-three of the watercolors as well as portions of the journal, was published by LSU Press. The Paret journal had been published earlier in France in 1993. In the preface to the book, Mary Louise Christovich gave her evaluation of the importance of the publication, “Father Paret’s watercolors have a Janus-like effect, looking back toward the eighteenth century when agricultural empires were rested from raw landscapes and forward to a time when these same properties only suggest a recollection of Louisiana’s enduring architectural legacy.”

This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.

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