The Charge d’affaires of the Mexican Embassy – Minister David Najera – will be in Bath on July 19th to unveil a plaque in Camden Crescent to a little known Bath woman who has helped preserve part of his country’s once colourful ancient history.
Adela Breton’s family moved to 15 Camden Crescent, Bath (formerly known as Camden Place) in 1852 when Adela was a young child. Her father, William Henry Breton, was a retired naval officer and she had one brother, Harry D’Arch Breton.
She travelled to remote areas in Mexico to study Maya ruins – which was quite exceptional for a lady of her time.
Adela recorded Maya frescoes in accurate and exquisite detail, producing illustrations reflecting their value and importance – which have permitted later generations to view colours and carvings as they would have originally appeared.
The plaque recognizes the contributions of Adela Breton (1849-1923), a Victorian adventurer and internationally significant artist and archaeologist, who lived at 15 Camden Crescent, Bath from 1852 to her death in 1923.
Small brass plaques can be seen around Bath but there are few (7%) which honour women. This new plaque will help to reduce the imbalance.
The Minister will also be giving a lecture at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution on aspects of world affairs from Mexico’s unique perspective.
The talk starts at 7:30pm at 16 Queen Square. Tickets are available from the Bath Box Office. £4 for Members/students £6 for visitors.
Meanwhile, Adela is the subject of an exhibition at the BRSLI in Queen Square which runs until October 1st.
It has been designed by Jude Harris and produced in collaboration with Bristol City Museum – which also holds a lot of Adela material. They are having their own exhibition about Adela Breton later this year – concentrating on the archaeology – while the BRSLI in Bath focuses on her life.
I managed to have a word about the exhibition with Betty Suchar who is Vice Chair of the BRSLI Directors.
Praise about Adela’s achievements by professionals in her field can be found in letters held in the archives of Peabody Museum, Harvard University, USA.
Meanwhile, the BRLSI collected letters testifying to the excellence of Adela Breton’s work.
Sue Giles, Senior Curator, World Cultures, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery said “her work is of international importance: not only did she preserve the imagery from a lost culture in Central America, she made it possible for researchers around the world to use the imagery in their work.” Sue Giles co-authored the exhibition catalogue, The Art of Ruins: Adela Breton and the Temples of Mexico from the exhibition held by the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery December 16, 1989-March 10, 1990.
Katharine Wall, Collections Manager, Victoria Art Gallery, said the Gallery is “fortunate in having one hundred fascinating watercolours that document her life in Bath and travels in the Americas and across Europe.” The Victoria Art Gallery is currently raising funds to conserve some of Adela’s watercolours.
BRLSI’s historic collection contains a number of items related to Adela Breton.
In co-operation with the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and the Victoria Art Gallery, BRLSI is currently holding an exhibition – called The Remarkable Miss Breton – which runs until 1 October 2016
Concurrently BRLSI is also running a lecture series on Mesoamerica.
The next lecture is 1 July to be given by Dr. Elizabeth Baquedano, Institute of Archaeology, UCL, on ‘Adela Breton’s legacy to the art and architecture of ancient Mexico’.
In recognition of Adela Breton, BRLSI has named one of its rooms at 16 Queen Square in her honour.
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI) is an educational charity based in the centre of Bath. The Institution runs a programme of more than 150 public lectures each year of topics including science, philosophy, art and literature. It also maintains collections of minerals, fossils and other items, as well as a library of rare books. The BRLSI’s Jenyns Room is one of Bath’s leading gallery spaces with a year-round programme of art and museum exhibitions.