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Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur was born in Montréal in 1757. He was educated in France, where he became a diplomat, serving as French Vice-consul in Hungary and Consul in Cairo. He was also a prolific artist and writer, working on 31 titles in his lifetime. His output ranged from adventure novels through to ethnographic records of the costumes, cultures and habits of the people of the world.
This large scale engraving was one of five tableaux, printed as part of a publication entitled Tableaux des Principaux Peuples de l’Europe, de l’Asie, de l’Afrique, de l’Amerique; et les Découvertes des Captaines Cook, La Pérouse, etc. Previously Grasset de Saint-Sauveur’s illustrations had consisted of individual full-length portraits of people in their national dress, usually standing in a briefly described landscape setting. For this publication he adopted a new approach composing a tableau of the people ‘discovered by Cook and La Pérouse’ with a more highly worked landscape in the background.
The resulting work is highly decorative reading like a classical frieze. This reading is enhanced by the decorative border, where festoons have been replaced the sun, tropical birds, fruit, animals, sea creatures, people and a waka. Groups of between two and four figures represent the cultures of the Pacific basin and are identified by a key at the bottom.
The ‘Habts. de la Zelande (No.2)’ are the second couple from the left in the top row. The figures draw on Grasset de Saint-Sauveur’s earlier depictions of the Sauvagesse and Guerrier (also in the Gallery’s collection, see 1998/15/1 and 4). Never having visited the Pacific, he relied on the illustrated accounts of explorers, including Captain Cook, often borrowing quite directly. There is also a fair degree of fantasy involved in his representations and technicolour palette, as consideration of the costumes attests.
- Tableau des Decouvertes du Capne. Cook & de la Pérouse (Tableau of the discoveries of Captains Cook and La Pérouse)
- Production date
- circa 1798
- hand coloured engraving
- 456 x 557 mm
- Credit line
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, The Ilene and Laurence Dakin Bequest, purchased 2005
- Accession no
- No known copyright restrictions
- International Art
- Display status
- Not on display
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