Paper No. 158-3
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM
SUSANNA DRURY’S ‘PROSPECTS’ OF THE GIANT’S CAUSEWAY, NORTHERN IRELAND: VIEWS OF COLUMNAR BASALT MADE FAMOUS THROUGH ENGRAVINGS BY VIVARÈS (1743)
In 1740 the Dublin Society gave a prize of 25 pounds for two fine paintings, “prospects” of the Giant’s Causeway on the northern coast of Ireland. The little-known artist was Susanna Drury. Her landscapes of the remarkable basaltic formations of County Antrim soon gained a measure of fame, at least among admirers of topographic views, when engravings prepared by François Vivarès circulated widely in Europe. One of the two views was reproduced in 1768 (in an act of piracy not unusual at the time) as a fold-out illustration among the volumes of plates for the Encyclopédie. The Drury/Vivarès engravings were instrumental in establishing the Antrim basalts as an iconic geological locality, and in focusing scientific attention on columnar basalts as a noteworthy geological phenomenon, increasingly recognized as far more extensively distributed than previously believed. For a time, it was not uncommon for the term “Giant’s Causeway” to be associated with any instance of columnar basalt. The Drury/Vivarès engravings were consulted by naturalists unable to visit the site, and used as evidence in geological argument, thus serving as visual “proxies” in geological investigations. The uses of these engravings exemplify some of the practices in the visual culture of geoscience during the 18th century.