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The Astrolabe under the command of Jules-Sébastian-César Dumont d’Urville departed from France on 28 March 1826, returning on 1 April 1829. Amongst other places the voyage took in the western, southern and eastern coasts of Australia (referred to as Nouvelle Hollande), the upper South Island and east coast of New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Just over two months of the expedition were spent in New Zealand, from 10 January 1827 when landfall was made off the West Coast to 19 March when the ship set sail from the Bay of Islands for Tonga.
De Sainson as official artist to the voyage made numerous illustrations, as described by his Captain on return to France ‘His portfolio contains no fewer than 182 views, landscapes, scenes and pictures; 153 portraits, 112 plates of dwellings, monuments, costumes, arms and utensils, and 45 coastal profiles, sketches of trees, etc.’ (Collins, 1997, p.13) From these, selections were made for the Atlas Pittoresque to accompany the official account, which included 32 illustrations of New Zealand.
While the publishing model for voyages of exploration of the Captain’s official account and an atlas of illustrations was established by Cook’s third expedition, the Atlas to the Voyage de la corvette l’Astrolabe was unique in that it was the first such publication to use lithography to reproduce the plates. Indeed this innovative usage of the, relatively new, medium was used to promote the publication in its Prospectus.
Academic Roger Collins recognises the skill of the lithographers involved in the project, remarking that de Sainson’s original sketches demonstrate he ‘was not an outstanding draftsman’. Indeed his ‘reputation owes much to the skills of his interpreters.’ (Collins, 1991, p23)
[29.] Tonga-Tabou. Maison du chef Lavaka, Tombeau d'un Chef, Vue de l'un des Monuments destinés à la Sépulture de la Race Royale, plate 95
Louis de Sainson showed great interest in Tongan buildings. He was clearly impressed by their construction technologies as in addition to the ethnographic plates 89 and 95, interiors and exteriors feature in numerous other plates. The skill and beauty of the lashing is particularly evident in plate 73, which shows the interior of Chief Palou’s wives house. The structures appear to be light filled, strong and perfectly suited to their environment. By contrast the missionary house constructed according to European principles (plate 85) depicts a somewhat dilapidated home which has none of the elegance of line seen in the Tongan structures.
- Tonga-Tabou. Maison du chef Lavaka, Tombeau d'un Chef, Vue de l'un des Monuments destinés à la Sépulture de la Race Royale
- Production date
- 324 x 494 mm
- Credit line
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2010
- Accession no
- No known copyright restrictions
- International Art
- Display status
- Not on display
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