Tinco Lycklama, and the birth of the municipal museum of Cannes

By George Homs, Tinco Lycklama Foundation


Few museums in the world can claim a double nationality. This is, however, the case of the Musée de la Castre in Cannes.

Musée Lycklama - Tinco
Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt (1837-1900)

It started in 1871 as a “Museum of antiquities and oriental art”, in the Dutch town of Beetsterzwaag – the home town of its creator, Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt (1837-1900). In 1873, it opened in Cannes, France, where Tinco Lycklama had resettled. A few years later, he donated his collections to the City of Cannes.

On April 14, 1878 the first municipal museum of Cannes opened its doors under the name Musée Lycklama. In this article, we retrace the circumstances of this donation and celebrate the 140th birthday of what is, today, the Musée de la Castre.

When a village becomes a city, it needs a museum

Prior to the arrival of Tinco Lycklama in Cannes (in 1872), there had been many talks about providing the city with a museum. And, actually, there was already one.

In 1834, the British Lord Henry Brougham had ‘discovered’ Cannes, which was still a fairly small fishermen’s village. After he decided to build a stately home there and move to Cannes for the rest of his life, some of the statesman’s influential friends followed. Soon, Cannes was attracting aristocrats, royalty and rich industrialists from all over Europe.

Musée Lycklama - Vue de Cannes 1869
Cannes in 1969. Photography by Walburg de Bray.

Between 1834 and 1872, in barely thirty-eight years, the city grew from 4,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. It became the prime Mediterranean destination for those who could afford the luxury to spend the winter season there, away from the cold and increasingly industrialised north. For the benefit of comparison, by the time the Musée Lycklama opened, Cannes counted 14,000 inhabitants; when he died in 1900, there were 30,000.

Visitors to Cannes enjoyed many distractions. Of course, people came for the climate, but they were also keen to socialise with others. In the 1860s, the Cercle Nautique became the meeting hub for the rich and famous, and members enjoyed a library, restaurant, concerts and theatrical performances.

In 1868, Cannes also created the “Société des sciences naturelles et historiques, des lettres et des beaux-arts de Cannes et de l’arrondissement de Grasse”, which goes today by the far easier name of Société Scientifique et Littéraire de Cannes. This was a club for the more cerebrally inclined. They were interested in science, and would hold weekly meetings to debate a broad variety of topics, inspired by the knowledge of its members. Tinco Lycklama was invited to this club in 1873.

One of the first initiatives of the Société was to install a museum, focused on natural history and regional archaeology. However, its location at the Rue du Bivouac Napoleon 7 was increasingly insufficient. In 1873, when the city council announced its decision to build a new and monumental city hall, it was agreed that the Société would be welcome there with its museum and its fast-growing library.

In the meantime, a private collection is born in The Netherlands

In January 1871, Tinco Lycklama opens his “Museum of antiquities and oriental art” in his native Beetsterzwaag, in The Netherlands. It was a quite heteroclite collection of archaeological finds, Islamic art, ethnographical objects, and simple souvenirs – collected through the voyage that the young nobleman made, at the age of 27, through Persia, Mesopotamia, Assyria, and the Levant.

Musée Lycklama - Eysingahuis
Eysinghuis in Beetsterzwaag (NL) – first museum of Tinco Lycklama

The 1871 catalogue written by Tinco’s secretary Ernest Massenot has 700 entries and totals some 1,200 individual objects, spread over eighteen big cabinets but also scattered throughout the museum: oriental sofas, medieval weapons, carpets, etc. It must have been quite an unusual sight – not just for Friesland but for visitors from anywhere. The Dutch National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden) in Leiden existed since 1818, but was largely concentrated on Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilisations. Tinco Lycklama was simply the first Dutchman ever to dig his hands in the sands of old Babylon and Nineveh – and only a couple of dozen other Europeans had come before him in the Middle East.

However, Tinco’s private museum in Beetsterzwaag was short-lived. Though it is only speculation, we have good reasons to believe that it was never his purpose to permanently keep the museum in his home town.

When he embarked on his trip through the Orient (1865-68), he was living in Paris where he studied and met with the most famous orientalists and scholars of that time. He returned home to Beetsterzwaag from the Middle-East in October 1868, but soon went back to Paris. A year later, he leaves again for Sidon, Jerusalem and Egypt, and returns early 1870 to Paris. There, he takes a long-term lease on an apartment, opposite the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Political events must have shaped his next decisions. In the summer of 1871, the Franco-Prussian war broke out, rapidly followed by the revolutionary time of the Commune of Paris. Paris was definitely not safe. He must have been reluctant to leave – but that’s what he did prior to the start of the war.

In retrospect, these events didn’t last that long – but that is something Tinco couldn’t foresee. He just didn’t know when he could return to the French capital. Thus, his decision to return to Beetsterzwaag and setting up his museum there made total sense.

A Dutch museum moves to France

However, soon after the end of these tumultuous times, and as early as 1872, Tinco moves to Cannes. By the end of the year, he closes the museum in Beetsterzwaag, and takes along his Frisian carpenter Johannes Mook to Cannes to install his museum in the Villa Escarras, a beautiful manor with leafy gardens, close to the beaches.

Villa Lycklama - Escarras
Villa Escarras, Cannes

His new “Musée d’antiquités et d’art oriental” opens on March 24, 1873, with Tinco’s secretary Ernest Massenot as keeper. Visitors are invited to come and admire his collection on Mondays and Thursdays, from 1 till 3 o’clock, by appointment. There was a charge of 1 Franc, of which 50 centimes were generously donated to the hospital of Cannes. The purpose was definitely not to make money, but rather to be somewhat ‘selective’ with visitors.

Over the next months, things change between Tinco and his secretary. Massenot had played a vital role in setting up the museum in Beetsterzwaag, where he also drafted its first inventory. But, by 1874, the two men fell out for reasons that are not completely understood. In any case, Tinco lets Massenot go and finds himself without a museum keeper – and he doesn’t hire a replacement. Thus, by the end of 1874, the museum’s opening schedule changes: visits are only possible on Saturdays, between noon and 3pm.

A museum too big to handle

In the meantime, the museum had grown substantially, for a number of reasons. One was that, after the second voyage to Sidon, Jerusalem and Egypt (early 1970), many new objects had been stored in Beirut and had remained there, simply because of the war situation. In 1872, the first crates finally arrive, followed by other shipments early 1874. Another reason was the acquisition, shortly before Massenot’s departure, of the collections of a deceased French explorer, Edmond Ginoux de La Coche (1811-1870). This included a substantial number of ethnographical objects from Oceania.

It is doubtful that Tinco ever had the time (or the space) to set this up in his museum, certainly when facing this task alone in 1874. But, Tinco’s ambitions seem to have been formidable. He clearly had the intention to build a grand European museum of ethnography and archaeology.

Musée Lycklama - Massenot
Ernest Massenot, Tinco Lycklama’s secretary and museum keeper

The falling out with Massenot must have short-circuited this ambition. But, there is more, another event was going to have serious impact on Tinco’s life. In August 1875, he married the wealthy Dutch Baroness Juliana thoe Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg (1845-1914). That marriage was two years in the making, and kept him busy and travelling – especially early 1875.

One can only conclude that, by that time, the museum did no longer get his undivided attention. Visitors to the Villa Escarras found the doors more often closed than not.

After the marriage, Juliana joins Tinco in Cannes. The question of the museum must have been a regular topic at the kitchen table. In fact, it is important to know that the Villa Escarras was not Tinco’s property. And, back in 1872, after taking a long-term lease on the elegant manor, he acquired another villa in Cannes – the Villa Bressane, which he subsequently renamed a few times (Villa Lycklama, Villa Eritia…). This villa was located on the Chemin des Tignes which was said to be ‘outside town’ but can be located close to the city centre on the current great thoroughfare, the Boulevard Carnot.

Villa Lycklama - Chemin des Tignes Bld Carnot - 3Fi501
Villa Eritia, Cannes

So, Tinco and his wife alternated between the two villas. In fact, Tinco used Escarras primarily as a museum and as a place where he could receive guests and organise parties. But, the cost of upkeep and staff must have been significant. In a letter to his brother Augustinus, in April 1877, Tinco writes that he’s in the middle of a move and leaving Escarras to finally settle in the Villa Eritia – quoting the high humidity of at Escarras as a main reason. The humidity probably did no good to Tinco and Juliana, but was probably detrimental to the fragile objects in the museum, too.

Tinco tells us that the Villa Eritia had ample room to house the museum, so the museum found a new location. But, it remains pretty doubtful whether it ever re-opened to the public.

Especially because of what follows…

Tinco donates his collections to the City of Cannes

On December 27, 1877, Tinco Lycklama meets his friend the mayor Jean-Baptiste Girard (1820-1897) at the new city hall. They sign a well-prepared document in which Tinco donates his collections to the City of Cannes. Four days later, Mayor Girard presents this agreement to the city council, which unanimously votes to accept the agreement.

Musée Lycklama - Hotel de Ville
Cannes city hall, built in 1876

What was the donation about? Tinco simply hands over all the “oriental antiquities and curiosities” that were exhibited at his private museum. He also donates his portrait in Albanian costume, painted by Emile Vernet-Lecomte. But, he is keeping a few things for himself: a copper tobacco pot and pipe, a goblet, a bowl, a sterling silver coin wallet, and some wooden pedestals. (One wonders why these exceptions had to be specified.) The eight Qajar paintings that are till this day the treasure of the Musée de la Castre, were also not included but became part of a separate donation, specified in his final will in 1885.

How important was this donation? The value of museum collections is usually very difficult to establish, especially when it concerns archaeological finds. But, for some reason, perhaps to amplify the generosity of Tinco and trophy for Cannes, the amount of 400,000 francs was leaked to the press – the approximate equivalent of 1,5 million euros today.

On New Year’s day, 1878, Tinco writes to his brother Augustinus : “I have donated my collection of antiquities to the City of Cannes, and they have accepted with pleasure, because a couple of years ago a new and big city hall was built, which has big rooms but few antiquities, so my gift will serve them well.” (translated)

The coincidence of timing

One may wonder why Tinco Lycklama and Mayor Girard would meet two days after Christmas, at a time when most people were celebrating the season. On top of that, the city council is convened a few days later, on New Year’s Eve, to endorse the agreement. Was someone in a rush?

Perhaps so. In November 1877, the Société des Sciences Naturelles had made the decision to finally move its own museum of natural history – and  library – over to the new city hall. Besides that, Tinco’s friend Auguste Macé (1819-1877) had died in September. Auguste Macé had been the founder of the Société and he was an influential figure and city councillor in Cannes, who had presided over many important initiatives, especially in the arts and sciences.

Municipal politics were about to be shaken up. New municipal elections were scheduled for January 1878, and the rumour was that the traditional majority would lose its grip and that a new generation of councillors would take over.

Musée Lycklama - ElectionsTinco must have realised that, in the future, he would not be able to tend to his museum. He must have felt that the sustainability of his collections could be assured by handing them over to the city, thus ensuring a permanent legacy. If he tried to stick to his prized possessions, he risked that the work of a lifetime would sink into oblivion.

A new municipal majority might thwart this new scenario, and it may explain Tinco’s eagerness to make this arrangement with Mayor Girard. And, Girard himself may have wanted to keep forever his name associated with the noble creation of the first municipal museum.

Indeed, after the elections of January 6, 1878, a new majority was ushered in and would stay in power till 1895.

Honour to a generous benefactor

The agreement with Girard not only specified the object of the donation, but also how the agreement would be executed.

Musée Lycklama - Detail vitrinesFirst of all, it was decided that the collection would be installed in the new city hall, close to the rooms where the museum of the Société des Sciences Naturelles, would be installed. (It would take until 1892 to integrate this museum into a single municipal museum with the name Musée Lycklama). The city of Cannes would guarantee the maintenance of the objects and their conservation for eternity. The objects were to be kept in closed cabinets, and we assume that these were the same cabinets that Tinco had in his own museum.

Ample space was reserved in the south-eastern wing of the city hall, and a sign above the door would say “Galérie Lycklama”, to honour the generous benefactor. (In practice, the collections were always called Musée Lycklama, as newspaper records show.) On a nice plaque affixed to the entrance, the following text would be engraved: “Collection donnée à la ville de Cannes, sous l’administration de M. Jean-Baptiste Girard, maire, le 27 décembre 1877, par M. le Chevalier T. M. Lycklama A. Neyeholt.” (sic).

On top of that, to demonstrate its appreciation of Tinco’s generosity, a special commission is charged with officially transmitting the gratitude of the city to Tinco and his wife. The commission consisted of mayor Girard, doctor Sève, Victor Béchard, and councillors Roustan, Conte and Gauthier – all friends of Tinco.

But, that’s not how it went – at least not completely.

The move to the Hôtel de Ville

The new municipal politics would intervene and hinder a faithful execution of the agreement.

The city architect and engineer J. P. Revellat had been instructed with the organisation of the transfer of the museum and its installation in the city hall. According to reports, Revellat was not only an engineer but also an avid researcher and writer on matters of science and archaeology. He seemed to have all the right qualities for the job. He was thus also charged with the establishment of a full inventory of the collection – in two copies, one for Lycklama and another one for the city archives.

Unfortunately, no copy was ever found of such an inventory (which is a significant blow to our knowledge about the collections). In fact, we can simply assume that such an inventory was never made.

Only a few days after the municipal elections of January 6, 1878, a new city council took office, and engineer Revellat was soon fired from his position, in a municipal purge. He lost his job over a significant scandal called the “affaire du theâtre“. A theater was being built close to the city hall, but a judicial, technical and financial imbroglio (probably not of Revellat’s doing) ensued, and it was decided to halt the works. The half-built building was finally taken down – a very costly affair to the city but, obviously, old municipal feuds were being settled.

The new city architect, Louis Hourlier, was charged with executing the transfer of the collections of Tinco Lycklama. Which he did. However, this man did not have the same qualifications as Revellat – and he certainly lacked the competence to establish a museum inventory.

Tinco probably didn’t like all this, but the records suggest that he didn’t make a fuss. Probably he preferred to remain quiet, rather than running the risk that the new city council would revoke the city’s acceptation of his donation.

Musée Lycklama - VitrinesToday, it remains unclear if the museum was installed at the exact location that was intended by Mayor Girard. The new Hôtel de Ville was always intended as a multi-purpose building, not only housing the city’s small administration but also serving other public functions: a tribunal, police headquarters, postal and telegraph services, and – of course – the library and museum of the Société. It may sound bizarre, but it also housed a “bistrot” on the ground floor; according to city records, this was part of a deal that would guarantee, through a commercial lease, that the ends of the municipal purse would meet.

It is safe to assume that the new city council revised the plans and dispositions with the building. Tinco’s collections finally found a home in rooms that were originally reserved for the sub-prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes department. The previous sub-prefect Paul David had quit his job in December, and his successor Jules-Charles de Lamer would only be installed in his new position in June 1878 – so the rooms were available. (In subsequent years, the collections were moved around several times.)

It took twelve people to move the museum, under supervision of the new municipal engineer Hourlier. On March 28, 1878, Tinco writes to his brother August that the move had finished the day before, and it had taken two weeks to accomplish this. Hourlier reported to the city council that nothing had been broken and that the move was a success.

April 18, 1878 – a grand opening?

The first municipal museum of Cannes – the Musée Lycklama – opens its doors to the public on April 14, 1878 (a Sunday). The newspapers report that over 1,200 visitors attended, “in full admiration for these rich and rare collections, the result of a life-long search by baron Lycklama in various parts of the world”. One can easily imagine that the city hall was overwhelmed by the tremendous enthusiasm for its first public museum. Tinco Lycklama must have been quite satisfied that his collections finally gained the great visibility that he had always hoped for.

Nevertheless (and this is where we understand that not everything went according to plan), a newspaper article complained that the installation at the city hall did not befit such a great collection. The rooms were crammed, and the city council should have given more space.

The same newspaper (the Courrier de Cannes) also says that the new mayor, Eugène Gazagnaire (1838-1900), and his council could have done a better job to honour Tinco Lycklama, the new great benefactor of the city. They wonder why there was no fanfare present at the opening ceremony or, alternatively, why didn’t they send one to Tinco’s residence to thank them for this wonderful donation?

We can only assume that the political winds had indeed changed, and the new masters at the city hall – whilst happy to have a museum that gave cachet to the city and would attract new visitors – probably thought that one should not overdo it.

Mayor Gazagnaire left office in 1895, and his successor Jean Hibert, a friend of Tinco Lycklama, would correct this wrong much later, including by giving Tinco Lycklama one of the grandest funerary ceremonies ever when he died in December 1900. But, between 1878 and 1895, the records are witness to a certain animosity between Tinco and Mayor Gazagnaire, at several occasions. Interestingly, Eugène Gazagnaire died just a month before Tinco – as if, together, they brought an epoch in the history of Cannes to an end.

Why donate a museum at the tender age of 40?

Many questions remain, and will probably remain unsolved. We must rely on what the records say, and be careful with our interpretations.

But, indeed, why did Tinco Lycklama ultimately decide to donate his collections – the work of a lifetime – to the city of Cannes?

Mayor Girard states that Tinco makes this donation out of gratitude for regaining his health in the soft climate of Cannes and for the warm welcome he enjoyed from its citizens. Indeed, Tinco always had a poor health. The harsh circumstances of his travels through the Orient had weakened him forever.

But, the noble gesture of a donation could hide a deeper motive. We speculated earlier that Tinco simply was not up to it anymore, after he let his secretary Ernest Massenot go. In his private correspondence, Tinco also hints at his desire to lead a more quiet life, with his new bride. That sounds inconclusive, as Tinco continued to travel significantly throughout Europe, with his wife, to meet friends and family. Tinco remained very active, even if his health often caused him to take a big pause. And, he remained involved in key decisions about the museum.

There is a detail in Girard’s report that may give another hint. Girard says that Tinco makes the donation “with full consent of his wife”. Why would Tinco need the consent of his wife? After all, it was HIS collection, and she had never been involved with its development.

Thus, let’s think of it differently. Living in a museum was probably not Juliana’s idea of an ideal home. She was probably thrilled by Tinco’s stories about the Orient, and enchanted with his museum where every object came with a wonderful story. But, she probably did not share his ambition about building a grand museum, where visitors would constantly perturb their privacy. The fact that they moved out of the Villa Escarras by the summer of 1877 is a first indication. The sudden decision to donate the museum to the city of Cannes, just a few months later, is no coincidence.

Musée Lycklama - Juliana
Juliana thoe Schwartzenberg en Hohenlansberg, spouse of Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt

And, then there is the more materialistic motivation. When Tinco died, in 1900, Juliana writes to her sister-in-law, Anna Sixma van Heemstra, the wife of Tinco’s brother Augustinus, and reminds her that Tinco didn’t have much money when they married. That may come as a surprise, given that Tinco was one of the largest landowners in The Netherlands (as witnessed by taxation records). However, the landed gentry traditionally hold on tightly to their domains; even when they need money, they do not easily part with their domains. Tinco was earning some income from leasing his lands to farmers but, at that time, there was a significant economic crisis in The Netherlands, especially in his native province of Friesland. He obviously got cash-strapped. That doesn’t mean that he was poor, of course, but let’s assume that his wife was not keen on subsidizing Tinco’s museum ambitions.

In any case, they both later engage in other noble endeavours, and their substantial donations to religious works are still honoured today in both Cannes and The Netherlands.

A lasting legacy to a man’s passion

Handing over his collections to the city of Cannes gave Tinco the best of both worlds. For one, it was now in the hands of the city and they were responsible for its future – financially and structurally. And, at the same time Tinco got a permanent tribute to his passions with an official museum that bears his name.

It may be called the Musée de la Castre today, but it will forever remain the museum that Tinco Lycklama built.


Selected bibliography

  • The Archives Municipales de Cannes, as a critical source for factual details used, from municipal records and newspaper archives.
  • Fabien Blanc, L’origine des collections du Musée de la Castre à Cannes, 2005. Available on demand.
  • The personal archives of Ernst Huisman, historian, kept at the Provincial Archives of Friesland and family archives.

Specific online documents…

Lucas Bernardus Mulder (1819-1912), priest

Deken MulderLucas Mulder was dean of the roman-catholic St Francis parish at Wolvega. Tinco Lycklama developed a personal relationship with Lucas Mulder and became a benefactor to the parish.

Lucas Mulder oversaw the construction and decoration of Tinco’s private chapel at the Wolvega cemetery.

Key data on Lucas Bernardus Mulder…

  • 11/11/1819 – Birth at Zwollerkerspel (see record…)
  • 1840 – Registered in the town of Uden (NL) as a student (probably preparation for priesthood)
  • 21/12/1844 – Received priesthood (see source…)
  • 1852-1860 – Priest at Vollenhove
  • 01/10/1859-1903 – Priest at St Franciscus at Wolvega (see source for resignation…)
  • 11/01/1912 – Death at the Lycklama Stins, Wolvega (see record…)
  • Buried at Wolvega (see source…)


Leidsche Courant 13-01-1912 - Death Notice Lucas Bernardus Mulder
Enter a caption

Death notice, Leidsche Courant 13/12/1912 (see source…)


Tinco’s farewell to Tehran

We’re August 18, 1867 – and Tinco Lycklama is leaving Tehran (and will never return). He is traveling back to the Ottoman border and will then start his exploration of the northern regions of modern Iraq and Syria – the heartland of Kurdistan and ancient Assyria.

View of Tehran by Luigi Pesce
View of Tehran, 1860 (Photography by Luigi Pesce)

Tinco Lycklama had spent most of the year 1866 in Persia. After his a stay in Baghdad, in the first half of 1867, he returned to Persia in the summer of 1867. It was his second in Tehran – and also the last one. He used his three weeks in the Persian capital to respond to letters from Europe and Russia. Books had been sent from Europe, so that he could study the latest literature and prepare the next stages of his trip – through Kurdistan and Assyria to places such as Kirkuk and Mosul, and to the ancient sites of Khorsabad and Niniveh. Tinco also spent time in Tehran’s bazar, where he bought many more antiques and rugs that would stand pretty in his future museum.

In the fourth volume of his travel account, published in 1975, Tinco concludes his descriptions of Persia in a philosophical manner. In the meantime, the shah of Persia, Naser al-Din, had travelled Europe for the first time (1873). At that occasion, Tinco had met him several times, as well as his friends Emam Qoli Mirza (an uncle of the Shah), and Abd-al-Samad Mirza (the shah’s nephew).

I saw them charmed by the welcome they enjoyed everywhere in Europe, and full of admiration for the wonders of western civilisation. However, it would be an error to think that, once upon his return to Tehran, Naser al-Din would europeanise Persia… To every people its own genius, its destiny, and its role in the world… I believe that Persia will always remain Persia, the way it was shaped by its history, its religion, and the nature of its people.

Tinco is now traveling back to Hamadan, to meet again with his friend Abd-al-Samad Mirza, the “Ezz-al-Dawla“, and then to continue towards Kurdistan and Assyria – in the northern part of modern Iraq.

Between Tehran and Hamadan
Between Tehran and Hamadan

Making friends in Hamadan : governor Abd-al-Samad Mirza, “Ezz-al-Dawla”.

In Hamadan, Tinco Lycklama builds a friendship that will last a lifetime. Indeed, the young governor of the province, Abd-al-Samad Mirza, “Ezz-al-Dawla”, enjoys the company of his Dutch visitor and – a few years later – will come and visit Tinco in Cannes.

3-06-04 - Portraits divers - Abdol Samad Mirza Ezz ed Dowleh Saloor 2Abd-al-Samad Mirza (1844-1929) was a Qajar prince and a younger brother of Naser el-Din, the shah of Persia. At a young age, he was sent by his brother to rule the province of Hamadan. In later years, he also became governor of other provinces and briefly occupied the position of Justice Minister of Persia (1885-87).

In 1872, Abd-al-Samad Mirza, “Ezz-al-Dawla”, became chief of the Qajar tribe. It was in that capacity that he accompanied his brother on his first visit to Europe, in 1873. At that occasion, he also traveled to Cannes to meet his friend Tinco and to visit the museum that Tinco had opened in Cannes earlier that year.

Abd-Al-Samad Mirza is the common ancestor of the Saloor branch of the worldwide Qajar family.

In Tinco’s writings, the name of Abd-al-Samad is spelled differently (a typical challenge with all names and titles in the Persian Qajar dynasty) : Abdolsamad Mirza, Ez-ed-Daulèh.

An excellent profile on Abd-al-Samad Mirza can be found on Iranica Online…

Synchronicity? – How Yann Arthus-Bertrand relates to Tinco Lycklama…

This summer, the city of Cannes is presenting two major exhibitions to its visitors. One is the Lycklama exhibition, which retraces  the life and travels of Tinco Lycklama à Nijeholt (1837-1900), founder of the Musée de la Castre and benefactor of the City of Cannes. The other one is “Le patrimoine mondial vu du ciel“, with a selection of works by world-reknowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. These exhibitions have something in common – and you can call it synchronicity.

YAB - 21 rue Hautefeuille Paris
Arthus-Bertrand, éditeur – 21, rue Hautefeuille, Paris

In 1877, the Dutchman Tinco Lycklama – a well-respected resident of Cannes – donated his personal museum to the city. The collection was the built from art, souvenirs and artefacts bought during his exceptional three-an-a-half year tour through Persia, Mesopotamia and the Levant, between 1865-68.

Tinco Lycklama, a friend of Claude Arthus-Bertrand.

Upon his return from the Near East, Lycklama published a monumental travel account – over 2,200 pages in four volumes. His editor was Claude Arthus-Bertrand, located at 21 rue Hautefeuille, in Paris.

Tinco Lycklama was a member of the French Société de Géographie, which was presided by his friend Victor Malte-Brun. The Société de Géographie was closely associated with the house of Arthus-Bertrand, the official publishers of the Société. Claude Arthus-Bertrand was the obvious publisher-of-choice for Tinco Lycklama. Victor Malte-Brun was highly supportive of Tinco and recommended his books through articles and speeches.

It is interesting to note that Claude Arthus-Bertrand – the third generation of editors and medallion manufacturers in Paris – was the great-great-grandfather of Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Yann Arthus-Bertrand (born 1942, see Wikipedia…), photographer and film-producer, known worldwide for his recognisable aerial photography and film, is also a United Nations ‘goodwill ambassador’ for environmental issues. With his GoodPlanet Foundation, Yann Arthus-Bertrand actively encourages the public’s consciousness about ecology and the preservation of nature.

His exhibition in Cannes is sponsored by the French Committee for UNESCO. Through a selection of 35 aerial photographs, it showcases exceptional sites protected by UNESCO as world heritage sites. Cannes, with its Ile Sainte Marguerite and the famous Croisette, is a candidate for UNESCO recognition as World Heritage.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand captures what Tinco Lyckama saw

Beyond the unsuspected connection between Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Tinco Lycklama through the photographer’s ancestry, there is more that links the two exhibitions.

Tinco Lycklama made an exceptional voyage through the Near East, in 1865-1868. He visited places as a ‘simple tourist’, at a time when the only travellers in the region came with official government missions. Lycklama explored the Near East as a citizen, as someone who wanted to see things for himself, observe people and monuments, learn from other cultures and customs – without judging.

He also visited places that are currently destroyed or in danger of unreparable damage. Places like Mosul, Aleppo, Homs, Palmyra… Unfortunately, Tinco Lycklama didn’t make any photographs.

Amongst the 35 photographies at the Yann Arthus-Bertrand exhibition, there are a few spots visited by Tinco Lycklama. We let you discover two of these places through the exceptional photographs by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, with quotes from Tinco Lycklama’s books

Palmyra, Syria

YAB - Theatre Romain Palmyre

“J’avais vu les ruines de Persépolis, grandioses et superbes sur leur terrasse de granit, piédestal gigantesque qui en augmente l’effet; celles de Palmyre offrent un grandiose d’un autre genre, mais dont l’aspect n’est pas moins saisissant… Je consacrai trois journées entières, à explorer en détail ce magnifique cercueil d’une puissance un moment si brillante et si soudainement éteinte.” – Tinco Lycklama at Palmyra, July 16, 1868


Istanbul, Turkey

YAB - Hagia Sophia

“De tant de monuments, d’édifices, de temples contenus dans l’enceinte de Constantinople, obligé de faire un choix, je ne veux parler que de ce qui m’a frappé le plus, Sainte-Sophie… Sainte-Sophie (Aga-Sophia) était jadis la cathédrale de Constantinople; elle en est aujourd’hui la principale mosquée. Bâtie par Justinien sur les ruines de l’église de Constantin, les matériaux les plus précieux, arrachés à des monuments plus antiques, furent employés à sa construction. Transformée en mosquée par les premiers sultans, cette basilique en reçut l’adjonction de quatre minarets, qui sont les plus élevés de la ville ; mais sa disposition extérieure se trouve noyée dans les contreforts massifs et les autres constructions dont elle a été successivement entourée.” – Tinco Lycklama at Constantinople, September 12, 1868


About the exhibitions in Cannes…

  • “Le fabuleux voyage du chevalier Lycklama en Orient (1865-68)” – 09/07-29/10/2017 – Musée de la Castre (See details…)
  • “Yann Arthus-Bertrand – Le patrimoine mondial vu du ciel” – 01/07-29/10/2017 – Île Sainte Marguerite (See details…)

Tinco Lycklama meets up with cuneiform history at Bisotun.

Almost everything we know about the ancient civilisations of the Middle East relates to the decipherment of cuneiform script. At Bisotun, Tinco explores the reliefs and carvings that date back to the time of Darius the Great. But, not before having coffee at the Shah Abassi caravanserai.

Bisotun Caravanserai Shah Abassi.jpg-large
Caravanserai Shah Abassi, at Bisotun

Tinco Lycklama left the city of Kermanshah on June 29, 1867. He spent a most interesting fortnight in the company of the Turkish consul, and made new friends at the Qajar court. On his way to Hamadan, Tinco makes a stop at Bisotun. From a cultural perspective, a most interesting one.

By way of comparison, out modern knowledge about ancient Egypt owes everything to the decipherment of hieroglyphs – one of the oldest writing systems in the world. This was made possible by the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, a piece of rock that not only contains a text in hieroglyphs (dated to the year 196 BCE) but also its translation into Greek.

Cuneiform script, which predates hieroglyphs by a couple of centuries in the 4th millennium BCE, remained a total mystery until the full decipherment of the texts at Bisotun (also called Behistun), in 1857. Like with hieroglyphs, its decipherment was made possible by the fact that the carvings at Bisotun contained the same text in three cuneiform variants – Old Persian, Babylonian, and Elamite.

Bisotun Cuneiform Inscriptions - Closeup
Cuneiform inscriptions at Bisotun

Tinco spent the night at the local chapar khaneh, the courier station where he got fresh horses and provisions for his team. The station has disappeared today, unlike the nearby caravanserai of Shah Abassi, where Tinco went for coffee with an Englishman named Fowl. A happy encounter, but Fowl’s principal reason for staying at Bisotun was business, as he was a telegraph engineer. He did not share Tinco’s interest in the cuneiform inscriptions, located at the foot of the Bisotun mountain.

The inscriptions at Bisotun where carved between 522 BCE and 486 BCE, during the reign of Darius the Great. They contain historical information about the dynasty and the Persian empire. Though the inscriptions were known for centuries, it was Sir Henry Rawlinson who, in 1835, made transciptions and casts and proceeded with the first full decipherment of the Old Persian texts. Understanding these texts, and of the other two writing systems, took another two decades. (See a history of the Behistun inscriptions on Wikipedia…)

Bisotun Reliefs and Inscriptions
Reliefs and cuneiform inscriptions, from the reign of Darius the Great.

Hence, when Tinco Lycklama visited Bisotun in 1867, the world’s knowledge of cuneiform script – and the secrets it was holding – was still at a very early stage. The translation of clay tablets and rock inscriptions only progressed slowly, and full-scale scientific research only took off in the early 20th century.

Rawlinson, Henry Creswicke
Sir Henry Rawlinson (1810-1895)

As a result, Tinco Lycklama couldn’t tell us too much (and certainly not with full certainty) what the inscriptions meant at the ruins and monuments of these ancient civilisations. He could only admire the craftmanship of the people that produced these carvings, thousands of years ago, and provide insights in the general knowledge that was available about these civilisations through other sources such as oral transmission and ancient Greek chronicles.

Who knows what the cuneiform tablets in Tinco’s collection hold? They have never been translated.



Stone with cuneiform inscriptions (Lycklama Collection, Musée de la Castre, Cannes)

Sharing photographs and strawberries with the Qajars in Kermanshah

Tinco Lycklama is having a most interesting time in Kermanshah, as the special guest of Seyid Djouab. The Ottoman consul is a most entertaining host and takes Tinco along for wonderful horserides around the city, exploring the ancient monuments of Kermanshah – which was once a capital of the Persian Empire. Tinco also meets the Qajar rulers of Kermanshah, and discovers their keen interest in photography – and strawberries.

At the time of Tinco’s visit, the governor of Kermanshah was Emam Qoli Mirza (1814-1875), a Qajar prince with the title of Emad ed-Dauleh who occupied this position since 1852. He was an uncle of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, the Persian “King of Kings”, whom Tinco met in a private audience in 1866, in Tehran. Emam Qoli Mirza was a son of Mohammad Ali Mirza Dowlatshah (1789-1821), who had been governor himself and who was a son of the second Qajar King, Fath-Ali Shah (1772-1834). The Qajars in Kermanshah formed the prominent Dowlatshahi branch of the dynasty.

Emam Qoli Mirza courteously offered several gifts – including a waterpipe and family portraits. These belonged to Tinco’s most prized objects in his museum in his native Beetsterzwaag (NL), and later in Cannes (F). This was not the only time that Tinco met the governor. In 1873, Emam Qoli Mirza became Minister of Justice and travelled along with Naser al-Din Shah on his first visit to Europe. Tinco joined them during their Paris stay, in July 1873.

Emam Qoli Mirza (1814-1875, governor of Kermanshah B-W
Emam Qoli Mirza (1814-1875), Persian Minister of Justice (1873-75)

The governor had several sons. One of them was Murtaza Quli Mirza, Mansur us-Sultana (who died in 1905). In 1894-95, he became deputy Governor-General of Kurdistan. Murtaza Quli Mirza owned a very beautiful private park just outside Kermanshah, and he took Tinco there for a ride. He also introduced Tinco to Persian strawberries. Though Persia has a relatively large production of strawberries today, they were an extreme and exquisite rarity a hundred and fifty years ago.

It was another son of Emam Qoli Mirza who grabbed Tinco’s attention even more. The governor’s oldest son, Ali Quli MirzaSarim ud-Daula (who died in 1872), had been a deputy governor of the Luristan province, and governor of the Kubai tribe of Kurds. But, besides that, he was also an avid photographer.

The Qajars had a fascination for photography, and they were extremely well equipped for that time. They shipped photographic material from Europe and built enormous collections of photographs (only few of them are digitally available, unfortunately).

When Prince Ali Quli Mirza invited Tinco to join him at his Kermanshah palace, he had asked him to come dressed in the Arab costume he had bought in Baghdad (news travelled fast, even about clothes). The reason was that he wanted to take pictures of Tinco, which he did. Whereas he kept several pictures for himself, Ali Quli Mirza also gave Tinco copies of his own portrait, plus those of a few of the prince’s family members.
Unfortunately, we have no trace of these pictures. There is a solid chance that they could be found in the well-preserved photo collections of the Golestan palace in Tehran. Who knows, perhaps one day?

Tinco under Turkish guards at Kermanshah

Since he arrived at Kermanshah – on June 12, 1867 – Tinco Lycklama has been under permanent guards by Turkish soldiers. In fact, when he was approaching Kermanshah, he was met by a military detachment of twenty-five heavily armed men who escorted him into the city. These things happen – except that Kermanshah is not Turkish – it’s in Persia.

Kermanshah by Pascal Coste - 1840
View of Kermanshah (drawing by Pascal Coste, 1840)

In fact, it was Tinco Lycklama’s new powerful friend Namik Pasha – the Ottoman viceroy of Baghdad – who had made these arrangements. Remember that Tinco enjoyed significant priviliges when he stayed in Baghdad the previous winter, such as access to the military arsenal of the city and special escorts during his excursions to Babylon and Najaf.

Mehmed Emin Namık Pasha (1804-1892)
Mehmed Namik Pasha (1804-1892), Viceroy of Baghdad

The Ottoman Empire and Persia were not necessarily on friendly terms, but they maintained diplomatic relations. In fact, both empires were coping with external (European) influence and interference, especially from the British and the Russians.

The Turks seemed keen to please Tinco. Namik Pasha had instructed his consul in Kermanshah, Seyid Djouab, to treat him with the utmost deference.

Tinco had the choice of two houses offered by the Turks, where he could stay for the duration of his visit to Kermanshah. He chose the little townhouse, which came with a nice courtyard and a big garden. What’s interesting is that, after spending months traveling the deserts and often sleeping in tents, Tinco had started to adopt the customs of the region. Hence, he decided to pull up his tents in the gardens and, during his two-week stay, it’s in these tents that he worked and received his visitors – like a real sheikh of the desert.

It’s also with Consul Seyid Djouab that Tinco explored some very interesting sites in and around Kermanshah, such as the Taq Bostan rock reliefs. These are monumental sculptures dating from the Sassanid dynasty that ruled the Persian Empire from 226 to 650 CE. Kermanshah was a capital city of the Sassanids in the 4th century. In October 1866, Tinco Lycklama had seen similar rock sculptures from the earlier Sassanid rulers, near Persepolis.

Tagh Bostan
Taq Bostan

Regardless of all the good efforts by the Turks to please Tinco during his stay at Kermanshah, he is also getting back into “Persian mode”. Over the next few days, he will meet up with the Qajar rulers of the city.

“Orientals measure their respect for the traveller by his style.”

Time flies. It feels as if it were yesterday, but Tinco Lycklama arrived in Baghdad in December 1866, five months ago. Now it’s time again to move on. In style…

As it was the perfect custom for a gentleman in those days, Tinco Lycklama spent his last few days on goodbye visits to the people he had acquainted. Little time was lost on ‘Europeans’ (by which he certainly meant the personnel of the foreign legations) – with whom he had spent little time. But he had grown fond of the Carmelite priests, the people of the trading house of Weber, Jaeger and Wartman, and the Tonietti, Asfar, and Hanousche families (Levantines). They had done their utmost to make his stay in Baghdad comfortable and interesting. They had become friends.

Of course, he also visits Mehmed Namik Pacha, the powerful Ottoman viceroy of Baghdad. A direct relationship of mutual respect had grown between the two men. It had given Tinco a few privileges, such as special protection on some of his excursions to places like Babylon, Najaf and Karbala. As Tinco was about to continue his travel through Mesopotamia for a short return to Tehran (Persia), and then back through the north of modern Iraq towards Erbil and Mosul, the viceroy obliged again and provided Tinco with a passport and a special letter of recommendation. (In 1868, Tinco Lycklama and Mehmed Namik Pacha will meet again in Constantinople).

And, Tinco decided to leave Baghdad in style…

Caravan in the desert
Not Tinco Lycklama – but his desert caravan may have looked like this

We know from Tinco’s travelogue that he never travelled alone. He hired servants to assist him with practicalities – from cooking and washing clothes, to delivering messages, conversing and negotiating with locals, and protecting Tinco and his possessions.

“Je permets au lecteur de s’égayer à mes dépens ; je ris encore moi-même quand je me vois, par le souvenir, marchant en tête de cette caravane, d’une composition, néanmoins, absolument orientale.”

He never was short of servants as he had the money to pay them – and pay them well. But, he reflected that it would make sense to expand his team. “The reader is entitled to cheer at my expense; I’m still laughing myself, remembering how I was leading this caravan which, by the way, looked perfectly oriental.” Indeed, he left Baghdad with…

  • Eight servants:
    • Jussouf – a schismatic Armenian
    • Betros (Pierre) – a catholic Chaldean
    • Naoum – a catholic Chaldean
    • Djamoun (Simon) – a catholic Chaldean
    • Reza-Kouli – a chiite Persian
    • Iskender (Alexander) – a chiite Persian
    • Abbas – a chiite Persian
    • Naguy – a sunni Kurd
  • Three mule-drivers – all arab muslims
  • Twenty-five animals:
    • 10 mules
    • 9 Arabian horses
    • 2 greyhounds
    • 2 English dogs
    • 1 cat
    • … and of course his faithful Vashka – the dog that had joined him in Tiflis.

This caravan may have been perfectly oriental, but with a somewhat excentric Dutchman in the lead it must have been a pretty interesting sight!

Why did Tinco grow his team even though he didn’t need the extra manpower? Let’s assume that, carrying a precious recommendation from the viceroy of Baghdad, Tinco must have felt that he had to live up to his new status. And, as we’ll see later, word about Tinco’s activities in Baghdad even reached Tehran: his journey through the Orient got noticed!

However, there is also a very practical reason, and the answer lies in the enumeration of the various religions in his team. As a rule, travellers in the Orient were advised to hire people from different backgrounds, so that they would look at each other rather than turn against their paymaster. Tinco admits that it sounds ‘Machiavellian’, but it may have been a wise decision.

On a seperate note (and, admittedly, it’s very trivial), one may wonder where the cat came from. In fact, Tinco informs us that the cat was a gift from someone in Tehran. That means that he has been travelling no less than seven months with a cat, without telling us! We already know that the story of his dog Vashka is exceptional, as no other dog in history has seen as many remnants of antiquity (Persepolis, Babylon, Nineveh, Palmyra) or ancient places such as Aleppo, Damascus and Jerusalem. Now, we’re finding that he also had a cat with him when climbing the stairs of the palace of Darius and walking the streets of Baghdad. We have no clue, however, about the greyhounds and the English dogs. Perhaps he took them along as gifts for his friends in Tehran?

Quintessential coffee at Ctesiphon, the bedouin way.

30/04/1867  —–  Yesterday, Tinco Lycklama left Baghdad for an excursion to the ruins of antique Ctesiphon. It’s not just for touching another remnant of antiquity. He is also going to herd sheep and experience life in the desert. And, he’ll learn how the bedouins make coffee. Real coffee.

The Tigris was still flooding part of the city, and the main roads were impractical, so Tinco and his companions used quffa boats to move themselves and their horses out of town.

The trip was organised by Hanouche Asfar, a prominent christian merchant from Damascus who lived close to Tinco in Baghdad. Asfar had to inspect his flock of over 2,000 sheep, at his desert camp about an hour south of Ctesiphon. He brought along his two sons – Djabouri and Rhedzouk.


Ctesiphon by Sandor Alexander Svoboda (1826 - 1896)
Ctesiphon prior to 1888, rendered by Hungarian artist Sandor Alexander Svoboda (1826 – 1896)


The party was joined by Father Damien, one of the missionaries of the Discalced Carmelites who had become close friends with Tinco. Our research tells us that father Damien was actually Pierre Batailley, a young French doctor from the Faculté de Médecine in Paris. When Father Marie-Joseph de Jésus, in his previous life Gustave Cancel, became the superior of the Baghdad mission in 1858, he briefly returned to France to find an assistant. He met Pierre Batailley by chance, and it was a godsend for the future of Baghad. Father Damien became the most prominent doctor in the city – and for over thirty years (until his death in 1898) he helped rich and poor through the many sanitary challenges of Baghdad in those days.

Father Damien thought of himself as a good huntsman, and he joined the excursion for a little break of desert hunting. Tinco amusedly reflects that Father Damien’s hunting skills were probably limited to rabbits and low-flying birds.

Tinco’s five-day trip to Ctesiphon – the ancient capital of the Sassanids – was instructive, not only for the opportunity to witness again another remnant from antiquity, but also because it was his first real experience with the bedouin life and a true immersion into their culture. The herdsmen of Hanouche Asfar were genuine Bedouins – a world apart from the people in the city.

The juxtaposition of the simple life of the bedouins, in the shadow of the monuments that ruled the Orient over two thousand years ago, was a striking sight to Tinco Lycklama.

Naqsh-i Rustam (Iran): Sasanian Relief Showing the Investiture of Ardashir I by the God Ahura Mazda (Hormizd)
A relief depicting Ardeshir I, at Naqsh-e Rustam, near Persepolis – visited by Tinco Lycklama in October 1876 (photo by Antoin Sevruguin in the 1890s)

The Sassanid Empire (224-651) had its origins at Estakhr, the lost city near Persepolis which Tinco Lycklama explored in October 1866. King Ardeshir I soon moved its capital to Ctesiphon, where the Sassanids rule until the dawn of the islamic period. At times, the empire covered the whole of the Middle East as far as modern-day Egypt, Turkey, Yemen and Afghanistan.

Ctesiphon was already a capital in the preceding Parthan Empire (247 BCE – 224 CE). Its real history started about 120 BCE around what was originally a military encampment near the old regional Parthian capital of Seleucia. It became the empire’s capital around 58 BCE.


Around the fourth century of our common era, the city of Ctesiphon measured about twice the size of Rome. It is also around that time that the remaining and remarkable archway of Tāq-i Kisrā was built. After the start of the islamic period, much of city was taken down for use as building material to construct the new Abbassid capital of Baghdad in the 8th century CE. Ctesiphon became a ghost town.

It is under the Tāq-i Kisrā archway that Tinco Lycklama is having coffee today – in the manner of the desert people.

In terms of constructions, the Taq-i Kisra is about the sole building that subsist from the old Ctesiphon. Tinco saw more of it than visitor’s can see today. Indeed, the northern façade collapsed in 1888 due to flooding by the Tigris river. The archway, with its monumental height of 37 meters, was the largest construction of its kind when it was built. The fact that it still stands is a witness to the incredible craftmenship of its architects.

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Genuine excavations of the Ctesiphon site were only conducted for the first time in the late 1920s and early 1930s. in 1867, Tinco was keen to undertake some digging himself, understanding the potential of what he saw as an ancient graveyard nearby. But, he didn’t have the tools nor the skilled manpower to undertake it, and contented himself with a few objects that he found laying bare in the sand.

But, for Tinco Lycklama, the experience of the desert life at Ctesiphon proved to as fascinating as the sight of the ancient site. He share the meals with the bedouins, saw them at work with the herds of sheep. He saw how different the people were, both physically and culturally, from the citizens of Baghdad. He reflected on the different roles of women. For their hard labour, women had far more value here in the desert than in the city. As a result, bedouin parents prized themselves when having many daughters, whereas parents in Baghdad were keen on raising many sons.


At Ctesiphon, Tinco also tasted the best coffee he ever had in his life. And, no doubt having us in mind – 150 years later, he even shared the recipee for making the best coffee – the bedouin way. Courtesy of Djérif, a sixty-year old chief herdsman at the service of Hanouche Asfar.

In a nutshell, here is how you must make your coffee:

  • Coffee in the desertPrepare three coffee pots of different sizes.
  • The largest pot holds the used coffee of the previous day. Boil it slowly.
  • Put a layer of freshly grinded coffee in a second, smaller pot, and pour the old coffee over it. Boil it for another fifteen minutes.
  • Then pour what you have into the third pot, the smallest one, and let the water evaporate as much as what suits your taste for stronger or lighter coffee.

Tinco Lycklama calls this the ‘quintessential coffee’ which has nothing to do with what we erroneously like to call ‘good coffee’. Just don’t drink it before you go to bed, he says.

Let’s assume that Tinco must have delighted his guests in Cannes, later in life, when serving coffee the bedouin way, after a delightful meal.



Where are Lycklama’s five missing sarcophagi?

At the Musée de la Castre in Cannes, we can admire three impressive sarcophagi that Tinco Lycklama brought back from the ancient city of Sidon in the Lebanon. At Babylon, he excavated two others, and now we discover that he found three more at Sidon as well. But, these five sarcophagi are lost. In fact, we have no clue whether they ever made it to Europe.

Musée Lycklama Hotel de Ville 02
One of the christian-era sarcophagi from Sidon, displayed at the Musée Lycklama (at the Hôtel de Ville of Cannes) in the 1920s.

A sarcophagus is an important object in any museum collection. Sometimes it is valuable because of the ancient personality or family that the sarcophagus relates to. Sometimes it is a remarkable piece of art and craftsmanship. Sometimes, if untouched by vandals or thieves, it reveals valuable objects that the deceased were supposed to take with them to their afterlife. In any case, a sarcophagus is a delicate object that museums care for and enjoy sharing with the public.

Tinco Lycklama was proud of the three sarcophagi that he showed to the visitors of his museum in Cannes. These are christian sarcophagi made in lead, found at Sidon in the Lebanon, and they are dated to the 4th century CE. It is not clear whether Tinco unearthed these sarcophagi himself. They do not appear in the 1871 inventory of his museum in his native Beetsterzwaag (NL). On the basis of the written traces we have today, it is quite possible that he acquired them from Joseph Durighello (1822-1896), the French vice-consul at Sidon who was a passionate and reputed researcher of antiquity, who became a respected acquaintance of Tinco.

Our understanding of the vast collections of Tinco Lycklama is compounded by the fact that past inventories are confusing. Some have been lost, and others contain significant errors. During the move of the museum between Beetsterzwaag and Cannes, in 1872, some object were broken and lost their reference numbers. Beyond the 1871 inventory by Tinco’s personal secretary Ernest Massenot, we don’t have another inventory by either Lycklama or Massenot) that gives us an exact description of how the collection looked like before 1877 (when Tinco Lycklama donated his museum to the city of Cannes). Subsequent attempts at inventories by consecutive curators at the service of the museum of Cannes were haphazard, to say the least.

20170331_150645 (2)
Khan Antoun Bey, station of the ‘Messageries Impériales’ at Beirut (photo taken by Félix Bonfils between 1867-70 – source Lycklama photo collection)

The 1871 inventory was drawn upon the collection that was exhibited at Lycklama’s museum in Beetsterzwaag. It concerns about 600 objects, and we do know that at least as many that were acquired by Tinco in the Orient (between 1865-1870) never made it to The Netherlands. Some (if not all) were stored in Beirut because the political situation (including the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71) seriously complicated transportation to Europe. Also, at some point, the Ottoman administration that ruled over most of the Middle East prohibited the exportation of archaeological artefacts. As a result, many objects never went to The Netherlands, and were shipped directlty to Cannes later on, where Tinco officially opened his museum early 1873.

As we reported in an earlier article, Tinco Lycklama excavated two tombs from the ruins of Babylon (in modern Iraq). They were precious finds, as he found gold objects within them, an indication of the importance of the deceased. He took the tombs to Baghdad, where he left them in the care of his agents – the Swiss merchants Weber, Jaeger & Wartman. The tombs then supposedly were sent to Aleppo, from where Tinco must have sent them to Beirut – the key station on the maritime connection with Marseille.

Alphonse Durighello (1822-1896)
Alphonse Durighello, French vice-consul in Beirut (1822-1896)

After his great voyage through the Orient in 1865-68, Tinco Lycklama returned to the Lebanon in the winter of 1869-70. He stayed five months in Beirut, from where he made another expedition to Sidon. Indeed, not only had Tinco appreciated that Sidon was a very promising site for future archaeology, Joseph Durighello had also pointed him to some unexplored spots south of the town.

In the written report that Tinco’s secretary Massenot published in 1873, we see that Tinco unearthed three sarcophagi. They were not from the Christian era, and probably even predated the Roman and Greek era. These sarcophagi were handed over to the care of Antoine Joseph Sayur, a merchant in Beirut who also acted as the Dutch consul in that city.

Our next traces are as follows…

  • In 1872, the shipping company “Messageries Maritimes” in Marseille reports to the Dutch consulate that three crates from Beirut had arrived for Tinco Lycklama. We assume that these must have contained the three christian-era sarcophagi, and they were probably shipped directly to Cannes, where Tinco had just rented the Villa Escarras and where he was about to install his new museum.
  • In early 1873, Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822-1894), the pioneer in christian archaeology, publishes an article praising Tinco’s finds from Sidon – in particular the christian sarcophagi made in lead. Tinco has sent him photographs of the sarcophagi, which were at that point on display at his museum in Cannes.
  • In March 1873, Ernest Massenot publishes his report about the 1869-70 trip to Beirut, where he explains the excavation of the three sarcophagi found in Sidon. These sarcophagi were made from stone (and thus they are not related to the sarcophagi currently at the Musée de la Castre, as these are made from lead). The newly found sarcophagi were left in the care of the Dutch consul Sayur in Beirut.
  • In November 1873, the local newspapers in Cannes report Massenot’s imminent departure for Beirut. His mission was to recover the objects that Tinco Lycklama had not been able to ship to Europe because of the wars. A few months later, in February 1874, the same papers report that Ernest Massenot had returned to Cannes from a successful mission to Beirut.
Ernest Massenot - cropped
Ernest Massenot, personal secretary to Tinco Lycklama

Later in 1874, there is a fall-out between Tinco Lycklama and his secretary Ernest Massenot. From 1875 onwards, we never hear anymore about the latter. The conflict must have been very serious, and one may wonder if it has to do with the handling of Tinco’s collections, and possibly with the objects that had to be transferred from Beirut to Cannes.

The fact is, from the eight sarcophagi that had been excavated and had belonged to Tinco Lycklama, only three are accounted for and are on display today at the Musée de la Castre in Cannes. Where are the five others? Have they been destroyed for some reason? Where they sold for profit by the handlers in Beirut, perhaps with complicity of Ernest Massenot. Or, where they simply stolen?

Tinco Lycklama himself hasn’t left us any written statement about the fate of these five sarcophagi – at least not by what know today. The last volume of his series of four books about his travels in the Orient was published in 1875. It does refer to his second trip to Sidon, but doesn’t suggest that anything went wrong with the sarcophagi.

It remains a mystery. It is obvious that a collection of eight sarcophagi, including five from distant antiquity of which two from Babylon, leaves a different impression to the visitor of a museum than a set of three sarcophagi from the christian era.

What makes it even more astounding is the probability that the three subsisting sarcophagi were probably not excavated by Tinco Lycklama and rather acquired from Alphonse Durighello. The French vice-consul was a meticulous man with all the right connections, which may account for the fact that these three subsisting sarcophagi safely made it to Europe.

But, Tinco’s personal finds are lost. Did he place his trust in the wrong people? Are the results of his passion and hard work now on display in some other museum with uncertain attribution? Perhaps we’ll discover it, one day.