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This is one of four prints from the publication Illustrations of Missionary Scenes: An Offering for Youth. Within its two volumes are 40 prints with accompanying letterpress descriptions relating to missionary work in Aotearoa New Zealand, West Africa, India, America and China; of these, nine depict scenes from New Zealand. According to Len Bell, it was ‘the most elaborate and ambitious illustrated book about missionary activity in New Zealand at the time of its publication.’ (Bell, p 2) While images of missionary activities in New Zealand had been published prior to the book’s publication in 1856, they had usually been issued individually, or in the few instances they had been included in books their role was as subsidiary support material. In Illustrations of Missionary Scenes, the images are of equal, if not primary importance, perhaps to appeal to the ‘youth’ audience to whom the book was aimed. The plates of this book also differ from those that preceded them as they were not published by a missionary group or Church that had a direct interest in New Zealand. Instead it was the work of an independent publisher, Joseph Scholz; although the author Joseph Josenhans was associated with the Basle Mission and the French edition notes that the book was available for sale there (en vente dans l'Institut des missions évangéliques à Bâle).
While the lithographers of the plates are unknown, it is clear that none of the artists had first hand knowledge of the countries that were depicting. Rather they relied on previously published examples or textual accounts to invent the images. Christian Scholz, who ran the publishing firm of Joseph Scholz, explained his commissioning process in 1852, recording that on ‘finding pictures suited for a picture book [he] gives them to a writer to invent and write texts, and vice versa: how he, acquiring an interesting text gives it to an artist to make illustrations…he paid thousands of gulden as fees to artists for original illustrations, and to authors for texts.’ (Göte Klingberg, 2008, p103, paraphrasing Christian Scholz, 1852) The precedents for the four works proposed are not known, but other New Zealand examples in the publication are based on prints by artists ranging from Sydney Parkinson to George French Angas. Compositionally, Western art models have also been drawn on extensively.
The third or even fourth remove of the lithographer from the subject is manifested in the numerous factual errors of the print, along with their crude, lolly-bright colouring, which is very much of the period in Europe, yet in no way truthfully captures the subject.
Plate 15. A Dying Christian Chief, Exhorting His Followers
An old man, described only as a ‘Christian Chief’ in the title, is shown on his deathbed. His hand is on a bible held by a missionary whose gesture suggests blessing. Surrounded by his family who are in various states of supplication and grief, he urges them ‘to love God’ and ‘live in Peace’. Len Bell suggests that the image draws heavily on the Western convention of deathbed scenes, which saw a revival in popularity from the mid-18th century onwards. He argues that as the purpose of these images ‘was propaganda and moral instruction the image had to be memorable and its meaning easily understandable for the European audience. So the lithographer did not depart from the known stock of stereotypes.’ (Bell, 1979, pp 11–2).
- A Dying Christian Chief, Exhorting His Followers
- Production date
- handcoloured lithograph
- 211 x 336 mm
- Credit line
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2010
- Accession no
- No known copyright restrictions
- New Zealand Art
- Display status
- Not on display
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