These works provide an opportunity to examine the culture of its creators over and above the illustrated 'specimens' they contain. The Eurocentric focus of these pictorial records is undeniable. Few of the Maori people whose images they describe ever saw these illustrations. They were created for a foreign audience.
Given the varied details of these illustrations, it is likely that Lejeune and Chazal, the ships' artists upon whose work the lithographs were based, were hosted well, hopefully finding some relief from the cramped quarters they experienced during their sea journeys. Details of Maori hospitality are rarely captured in shipping log books and personal diaries, let alone in an around-the-world atlas that presumes Europe to be the centre of civilisation. Accounts of the honour bestowed by means of warm hospitality are usually subordinated to derogatory accounts of 'les sauvages', their treachery and their heathen practices. We have the comparative luxury in our modern days of air travel and televised news coverage of no longer needing to see what is distant as strange and barbaric. The lithographs place their subjects on a well-ordered yet frozen pin board under a giant 'magnifying glass' called 'European publication'.
Today, Maori and Pakeha viewers of these images have a chance to reflect on the work of their forebears, reminded equally of their achievements as much as their failings. For Maori people, often alienated from their culture, these works remain as cherished records of 'nga mahi o nga tupuna' (the works of our ancestors) and should never be forgotten. JD
The Fletcher Trust Collection
These two lithographs record the voyage to the South Seas of the corvette La Coquille, under the command of Louis Isidore Duperrey (1786-1865) and his deputy, Jules Dumont D'Urville during the years 1822-1825. The plates made by the engraver Ambroise Tardieu, published by Arthus Bertrand, are from watercolours by Antoine Chazal, who in turn revised the work of the unpaid draughtsman François-Louis Lejeune, also a member of the ship's crew.
The Coquille spent from 3-17 April 1824 exploring the Bay of Islands area. The purpose of the ship's voyage was to add to hydrographic, botanical and ethnographic knowledge. An accompanying description of Plate 41 by René Primevère Lesson, the ship's surgeon and collector of botanical specimens, is revealing, though quite at variance with the tidy appearance of the whare in the lithograph.
"These huts are lairs which can be entered only by crawling on hands and knees, and the families they shelter sleep pell-mell on the straw in a very restricted space, where the breathing of several people easily maintains the warmth necessary to prevent the outside cold from entering. Inside there is no furniture, with the exception of a few finely carved chests and a few red wood vases covered with patterns . . ."
The implements in Plate 40 were assembled in a single image by Chazal from drawings by an number of artists, including Lejeune. PS