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Esquisse d'un Caracore appt au Roi de Guebe, Sous voile, a la hauteur de Pisang [Proof engraving after drawing by Jacques Etienne Victor Arago for Plate 37, Atlas Historique]. The canoe of the Gebe chief, with Pisang Island in the background.

Date: 1820-1825
Image: 189 x 276 mm
Sight: 189 x 276 mm
Overall: 286 x 400 mm, 0.56 kg
Sheet: 286 x 400 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00037877

User Terms

    In the course of its passage north of New Guinea the URANIE was sometimes confronted by heavily-manned local vessels, believed by the French to be pirates. This engraving, after a drawing by Jacques Arago, shows two such vessels sailing under the banner of the Chief of Guebe.
    SignificanceThis image from the URANIE expedition commanded by Louis de Freycinet between 1817 and 1820 highlights continuing French interest in the Pacific following the Bourbon restoration.
    HistoryJacques Etienne Victor Arago was the official artist aboard the French expedition vessel URANIE, commanded by Captain Louis de Freycinet. The picture refers to an event which took place in December 1818 near Pisang Island (north-west New Guinea) and which is described in the journal of Rose de Freycinet.

    She writes: "Just as unfrequented dark streets in large towns favour bandits, so too the numerous straits of these seas are infested with pirates, who usually join forces to attack merchant ships. They put out to sea in long and narrow boats similar to canoes with outriggers, and use small paddles which require a different kind of handling to our oars, in that the paddles do not rest on the side of the canoe. The other day, about 15 of those boats, called corocores, appeared at nightfall heading towards us. Louis [de Freycinet] thought it wise to go on the defencive in case of an attack, but the pirates no doubt were deterred by the strength of the corvette and went on their way".

    "A few days after that insignificant event, we again encountered several armed corocores, but these belonged to the chief of the island of Gebe". (A Woman of Courage - The journal of Rose de Freycinet on her voyage around the world 1817 - 1820, National Library of Australia, 1996, p.63-64)

    Louis de Freycinet was a French naval officer who had participated in the Baudin expedition (1800 - 1804). As one of the crew of LE NATURALISTE, he was held in high regard by Captain Baudin and eventually entrusted with the command of one of the expedition's auxiliary vessels - the CASUARINA, a 20 ton schooner purchased in Port Jackson - in which de Freycinet was tasked to carry out independent surveys of parts of the southern and western Australian coast during 1803.

    As a result of Baudin's death in 1803, the task of writing the expedition report fell to scientist Francois Peron. When Peron died in 1810, Louis de Freycinet completed the voyage account and charts. On the strength of this work, de Freycinet was promoted to the rank of ''Capitaine de vaisseau'' and given command of a new expedition.

    De Freycinet sailed from Toulon in September 1817 in command of the URANIE and subsequently spent three years at sea. His expedition explored parts of South America and Australia as well as many islands in the East Indies and Pacific Ocean. In 1819 the URANIE left Sydney to sail home via Cape Horn but was subsequently wrecked in the Falkland Islands in February 1820. After several months the expedition was rescued by an American whaleship MERCURY which de Freycinet later purchased and named the PHYSICIENNE. The expedition finally reached Le Havre in November 1820.

    The principal object of Louis de Freycinet's expedition was scientific: he was charged to investigate 'the figure of the earth', 'elements of terrestrial magnetism' and 'questions of meterology', and his officers were also expected to make valuable additions to the existing tables of latitude and longitude, and to collect specimens for museums. Jacques Arago, the government draughtsman attached to the expedition, was charged with 'a faithful representation of all such specimens as their weight or liability to break would not allow them to bring away; and that he should take accurate views of the different coasts, which, besides the useful information they would furnish to navigators, would have the advantage of occasionally offering agreeable landscapes' and 'finally, it was to be expected that captain de Freycinet and his companions would add new particulars to the history of savage nations.' (Report to the Academy of Sciences, 1821).

    Louis de Freycinet had intended to sail to the Cape of Good Hope from France, via Tenerife, but winds drove him west to Brazil. He sighted the coast on 4 December 1817 and entered the harbour of Rio de Janeiro two days later, staying until the end of January 1818. Freycinet and his wife visited the French painter Nicolas Antoine Taunay, who had come to Brazil in 1816 as part of the French artistic mission invited by the king to found an academy of fine arts in Rio de Janeiro. Taunay's fifteen year old son and pupil Adrien Aimé, joined the URANIE at Rio as second draughtsman to the voyage.

    A selection of Arago's drawings as well as works by J.Alphonse Pellion and August Berard midshipmen on the URANIE, and Adrien Aimé Taunay, were published in 1825 in the Atlas Historique which accompanied Louis de Freycinet's official account of the voyage. Arago had previously published a group of his own drawings in his Narrative of a Voyage Round the World (London, 1823).

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