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Group of works relating to de Freycinet's 1817-1820 Voyage of the Uranie

Date: 1820-1825
Medium: Paper, ink, watercolour or pencil
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: Group of works
Object No: V00037877

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    Description
    A group of fourteen works relating to de Freycinet's 1817-1820 Voyage of the Uranie. These works primarily depict some of the indigenous water craft that were enountered by the URANIE and scenes of life at the settlements they visited. It wasprimary focus of the expedition to collect informationa and a visual record about the geography, meteorology, ethnology, and indigenous flora and fauna of the southern hemisphere. As such the best available artists travelled on board. Once back home the country's most skilled engravers prepared the illustrations for the publication.
    SignificanceThese pictures relate to the 1817-1820 voyage of the French corvette URANIE and are a legacy of the expedition commanded by Louis de Freycinet. They reflect both de Freycinet's career and the continuing interest and commitment of the French government in primarily scientific voyages after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte.
    HistoryLouis 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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