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Cigne Noir du Cap de Diemen

Date: 1800
Overall: 352 x 520 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00001175
Related Place:Tasmania,

User Terms

    This hand coloured engraving after the expedition naturalist and artist Francois Peron depicts an Australian black swan. It was Plate 9 printed in Labillardiere's 'Atlas pour servir a la relation du voyage de La Perouse' (Atlas illustrating the account of the La Perouse voyage)

    Although primarily sent to search for the missing French explorer La Perouse, the d'Entrecasteaux expedition conducted extensive survey work and visited Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) twice between 1791 and 1793. Amongst the many points of interest to the naturalists were the black swans they found there.
    SignificanceThis engraving is representative of natural history studies of Australian flora and fauna by French explorers in the 19th century. It was part of the extremely popular body of work published by the naturalist Jacques-Julien Houton de Labillardiere.
    HistoryJacques Labillardiere was the botanist on the expedition commanded by Admiral Joseph-Antoine Bruny d'Entrecasteaux sent to search for the missing French explorer La Perouse. The expedition was also ordered to conduct scientific work and surveys of the countries they visited.

    Stopping briefly at the Cape of Good Hope, the expedition's two ships RECHERCHE and ESPERANCE continued to southern Tasmania. During the following years d'Entrecasteaux searched the western Pacific - actually sighting Vanikoro Island in the Solomons (where La Perouse's ships were wrecked) but not stopping there. This was the second time in as many years that a European vessel had come close to finding traces of La Perouse's missing ships; HMS PANDORA had sailed past Vanikoro in August 1791 during their search for the 'pirated' BOUNTY. Although plumes of smoke were detected, the Pandoras did not bother to investigate these obvious signs of habitation.

    Although he was unable to locate the missing ships during the expedition d'Entrecasteaux conducted important scientific research and exploration of the Pacific, western Australia and Tasmania. However by 1793 many of the ship's crew were sick and dying including d'Entrecasteaux who died of scurvy in July. The remaining expedition sailed to Surabaya in the Dutch East Indies where they heard that the French King had been executed and the newly formed Republic of France was at war. At the time many of the expedition papers were captured by the British.

    Jacques Labillardiere returned to France in 1796 and his 'Voyage in search of La Perouse' detailing the d'Entrecasteaux expedition was first published in 1800. It offers an account of the natural history and ethnography of the countries d'Entrecasteaux visited. In 1804-1807 Labillardiere also published 'Novae Hollandiae Plantarum Specimen', the most comprehensive account of the Australian flora to that time.

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