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Habitation de pecheurs de phoques au Port Western

Date: 1833
Dimensions:
Overall: 369 x 454 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Art
Object Name: Lithograph
Object No: 00008307
Place Manufactured:Paris

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    Description
    Rear Admiral Jules Sébastien César Dumont d'Urville (1790-1842) was a French explorer and naval officer who explored the South and Western Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica. This lithograph is one of many by official naval artist Louis Auguste de Sainson (1800-1887) which depicts d'Urville's 1826-1829 voyage to the Pacific aboard the French corvette ASTROLABE. This particular lithograph documents the time d'Urville's expedition spent at Westernport (a large tidal bay in southern Victoria, Australia, which opens into Bass Strait), between 12 and 19 November 1826.
    SignificanceThis lithograph provides a visual record of one of the great French exploratory ventures of the 19th century (and, incidentally, one of the last). It is very important as a source in both the history of European world exploration and, more specifically, of the European relationship with Australia and its inhabitants.
    HistoryRear Admiral Jules Sébastien César Dumont d'Urville was a French explorer and naval officer who explored the South and Western Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica.

    He was born on 23 May 1790, enlisted in the navy at the age of 17 and, following the completion of his studies at the Naval Academy at Brest in 1808 was initially confined to land-based duties. He undertook his first short navigation of the Mediterranean Sea in 1814, after Napoleon Bonaparte had been defeated and exiled to Elba.

    Despite having failed to obtain entry into the École Polytechnique (the foremost school of engineering in France) in his youth, d'Urville had, nevertheless, always maintained an interest in all things scientific. In 1819 he sailed aboard the CHEVRETTE, under the command of Captain Gauttier-Duparc, to carry out a hydrographic survey of the islands of the Greek archipelago. It was during this voyage that d'Urville played a major part in helping France to acquire the now world famous Venus de Milo statue. This achievement alone earned him the title of Chevalier (knight), the Legion of Honour, the attention of the French Academy of Sciences and promotion to lieutenant.

    In August 1822 d'Urville set sail onboard the COQUILLE (this time as second in command). It was a joint exploratory venture between him and his friend/Captain, Louis Isidore Duperrey that was aimed at helping to reclaim France's place in the Pacific after the Napoleonic Wars. In March, 1825, the COQUILLE brought back to France thousands of floral and faunal specimens. Despite having behaved as a competent officer, d'Urville had neglected his health and his hygiene as well as having shown very little inclination to socialise during the voyage. On the return to France, Duperrey was promoted to commander, while d'Urville was promoted to a lower rank.

    D'Urville's next venture would be one he commanded himself. Two months after his return aboard the COQUILLE he presented the Naval Ministry with his plan for a new expedition which would see him returning to the Pacific. It was approved and on 25 April 1826, the ASTROLABE (formerly COQUILLE) departed Toulon to circumnavigate the world in a voyage that would last nearly three years.

    Louis de Sainson (1801-1887) trained as a topographic draughtsman and, at the age of 25, joined Dumont d' Urville's 1826-1829 expedition to the Pacific as the ASTROLABE's artist. De Sainson is mentioned frequently in d' Urville's account of the voyage.

    This particular lithograph depicts part of a British sealing colony at Westernport (a large tidal bay in southern Victoria opening into Bass Strait), where the ASTROLABE was anchored between 12 and 19 November 1826. Upon the ASTROLABE's arrival several of the sealers came out to meet the vessel. D'Urville recorded that:

    "As soon as the… [Astrolabe] was tied up, the sealers climbed aboard, and the skipper offered his services, and presented his credentials for inspection. I thanked him in regard to his first offer, and as to his papers, I handed them back to him without even glancing at them, observing that this was not within my province and that as far as I was concerned, he could regard himself as completely independent in this deserted and as yet uninhabited region." ('Voyage of the Astrolabe - Volume 1' by Dumont d'Urville, p54)

    Westernport was first discovered by British explorer George Bass in 1797. In the early part of the 18th century British soldiers and convicts were ordered to establish a settlement there to guard against the threat of a French invasion. Given that it was 'as yet uninhabited' it can be concluded that, by the time d'Urville arrived, the area had once again been abandoned, (except by the sealers).

    Furthermore, a month after the French visit, Governor Darling dispatched a party to settle Westernport to ensure it would not be claimed by any other European power. As it turned out, the British established the settlement in the wrong place and, faced with a lack of water and a lack of arable land the settlement was abandoned in January, 1828.

    Following the ASTROLABE's arrival at Marseilles on 25 February 1829, de Sainson was involved for four years in the preparation of the atlas volumes, a process which included the transformation of his own watercolours into pictorial plates. His work was finally published in 1833. He left the navy in 1836 and turned down d'Urville's request for him to join his second expedition to the Pacific. He continued to work as an illustrator but little is known about his later life.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Habitation de pecheurs de phoques au Port Western

    Secondary title: Hut of the seal fishermen at Port Western

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