Louis Le Breton (After), Édouard de La Plante (Lithographer), Thierry Frères (Printer)

Pirogue double des Missionaires (Ile Vavao)

Pirogue double des Missionaires (Ile Vavao) by Louis Le Breton, Édouard de La Plante, Thierry Frères

Artwork Detail

Dumont d’Urville’s third voyage to the Pacific was on board the Astrolabe, accompanied by the corvette Zélee. The ships departed from Toulon in September 1837 returning to France in November 1840. En route from Samoa in October 1838 d’Urville stayed for a week at Vava’u Island, which is today part of the Kingdom of Tonga. While there, he became reacquainted with Mr John Thomas, who had been chief Methodist missionary on Tonga during d’Urville’s previous visit in 1827. D’Urville’s impressions, paraphrased by Helen Rosenman, were that Mr Thomas ‘had grown heavy and fat. Methodism was firmly established but d’Urville noted with some satisfaction that the not very likeable Mr Thomas treated the paramount chief of the island and his wife with deference. They were a handsome, gentle and dignified couple, wearing the traditional chief’s dress, which looked far better on these tall good looking people than the European rags the natives on the other island under the control of the missionaries wore.’ (Rosenman, 1987, p 365).

The missionaries’ double-hulled canoe is pictured within the confines of a harbour. Moored in shallow water other ships sail in the distance. D’Urville’s ships, the Astrolabe and the Zélée are also depicted at anchor beyond. It is interesting in comparing the vessels to note that the missionaries have opted to use Tongan boat building techniques for their vessel. The large scale of the canoe is given by the number of Tongan crewmen who stand on board.

Pirogue double des Missionaires (Ile Vavao)
Louis Le Breton, Édouard de La Plante, Thierry Frères
Production date
tinted lithograph
213 x 364 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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