# 18893

[JAMAR, Jacques]; [COMET, Rita]

Photograph album containing portraits of a Belgian Lazarist missionary to China, and including a group of late Qing traditional paper and silk Chinese dolls. Circa 1903-1964

$1,750.00 AUD

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Photograph album, circa 1900. Small oblong quarto (165 x 235 mm), half morocco with ornamental gilt rule over faux crocodile papered boards, original floral-patterned lining papers, front pastedown with binder’s ticket of bookseller and stationer Gilon, Verviers (Belgium); [20] leaves of thick card, containing 4 cabinet card format portrait photographs of Lazarist missionary Father Jacques Jamar – 2 taken in China and showing him wearing Chinese clothing, one taken in Amiens (loose), and the other probably in a Belgian studio – and a carte de visite format albumen print, also showing the missionary in Chinese attire (4 of the 5 portraits are mounted and have contemporary captions in ink on the album pages identifying the subject as ‘Jacques Jamar, Missionnaire Lazariste, Chine’); 8 pages on which are mounted 15 late Qing period traditional Chinese dolls depicting men, women and children (various sizes up to 200 mm) made from paper and silk, most embellished with seed pearl buttons and several with human hair (all in very good condition, apart from one which has lost the paper head); 5 tipped-in silver gelatin prints (each 205 x 140 mm) dating to around 1920, showing the Catholic Cathedral at Chengtingfu and various Chinese temples (these are captioned Cathédrale de Tcheng Ting Fou, Tchuan t’a, Mou t’a, Ts’ung t’a, and Hoa t’a); 3 studio portraits, dating to the early 1900s, of Belgian Catholic nuns, identified as Mère Célestine and Mère Léonie (2); a page with a religious dedication to ‘Rita Comet’, dated July 1964 (likely written by a Chinese-speaking Belgian missionary, but with indecipherable signature), in Chinese calligraphy and in French: ‘Sacrifice total, Charité vraie et Joie constante: trois sentences du Père Lebbe’ (Father Frédéric-Vincent Lebbe was also a Belgian Roman Catholic missionary to China, whose advocacy led the pope to appoint the first native Chinese bishops; he chose to become a Chinese citizen at a time when missionaries, like all Westerners, enjoyed legal privileges in China, including immunity from Chinese law; he died in 1940 following his capture by the Chinese Communists); a loose black-and-white photograph of Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Republic of China (Taiwan), shaking hands with a Belgian missionary, inscribed verso ‘A Mademoiselle Rita Comet, souvenir de la Chine Libre’ (with same indecipherable signature as that on the dedication page), and wet stamps ‘Photo by Wu Chung Yee’ and ‘Nov. 26 1964’; the remainder of the pages are taken up with several family photographs from the 1920s including the First Communion of a young girl (Rita Comet?) and some early twentieth century views of London; album pages with occasional mild foxing, but overall the contents are in very good condition.

The Belgian missionary Jacques Jamar was born in 1876. He was ordained in the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul (also known as the Lazarists, Lazarites, or Vincentians) in 1895, and was sent to China as a missionary in 1903. For several decades Father Jamar worked at the Chengtingfu Mission in Hopeh (Hebei) province. (See, for example, Catalogue des maisons et du personnel de la Congrégation de la Mission, 1947, p 108).

It seems likely that the present album originally belonged to a close member of Father Jamar’s family; the photographs taken in China, as well as the Chinese dolls, would have been sent home to Belgium by the missionary and preserved for posterity in it, along with other significant family photographs. The album appears to have been inherited later on by Mademoiselle Comet. Also a devout Catholic, her additions to the album continue the theme of Belgian missionaries to China, even though they were made 60 years after the portraits of Father Jamar.