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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)
[32.] Établissement des travailleurs de l'Astrolabe au Hâvre Carteret (Nouvelle Irelande), plate 105
The views of New Ireland show the Astrolabe’s crew at rest and work. This image of the metalwork forge is quite remarkable for showing the various trades the sailors practiced in order to keep the ship at sea. The time spent in Carteret Harbour prompted a moment of reflection in d’Urville on their day of departure. Walking on deck in the early hours he observed ‘All around me everything was deeply asleep … I silently reviewed in my mind the many tribulations our corvette has been through. How many times had these bodies stretched out all around me escaped being drowned at sea! ... What could be more precarious than the lives of these men submissive to the will of one of their fellows and obliged to let themselves be dragged anywhere he liked to take them, through gales and dangerous waters and among even more dangerous reefs!’
- Établissement des travailleurs de l'Astrolabe au Hâvre Carteret (Nouvelle Irelande)
- Production date
- 333 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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