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Kangaroo Island emu
Title : Kangaroo Island emu Kangaroo Island emu
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Creator : Lesueur, Charles Alexandre, 1778-1846
Source : Voyage de decouvertes aux terres australes, ... en 1801, 1802, 1803 et 1804; ... Atlas, pl., 36
Place Of Creation : Paris
Publisher : De L'Imprimerie Imperiale
Date of creation : 1802
Additional Creator : Peron, Francois, 1775-1810
Format : Book
Catalogue record
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Description :

The dwarf emu of Kangaroo Island was recorded by the artist Charles-Alexandre LeSueur of the Baudin expedition in 1802. The expedition had been sent out by the French government to explore the unknown section of the Australian coast in 1800. The expedition took several live specimens of the bird, as well as other animals, back to France with them, where they lived in the grounds of the palace of Malmaison. The birds can also be seen in the title page vignette of the expedition account and on the map of Terre Napoleon. The bird was extinct by the time of official white settlement in 1836.

Like the English expedition under the command of Matthew Flinders, the 1800 French expedition under Post-Captain Nicolas Baudin was commissioned to explore and chart the coastline of the 'unknown southern land', determine whether New Holland was one landmass, and make scientific observations. They were also looking for new land and trade opportunities.

Nicolas-Martin Petit and Charles-Alexandre Lesueur signed on as crew members of the Le Geographe, keen to travel to the undiscovered lands of New Holland. Without these two talented young men the French expedition's value would have been greatly lessened, as all three of the official artists resigned from the expedition before it reached the southern continent. Nicolas-Martin Petit concentrated on drawing portraits and lscenes, while Charles-Alexander Lesueur became the natural history artist for the expedition. He worked closely with his friend zoologist Francoise Péron, acquiring many scientific skills including taxidermy, and became particularly adept at drawing fauna.

The French sailed along the eastern coat of Kangaroo Island in April 1802. Baudin in Le Geographe and Freycinet in Le Casuarina circumnavigated Kangaroo Island in early January 1803, after which Le Geographe was based at Nepean Bay until 1 February. During this period, scientists collected numerous specimens of new and exotic creatures which were recorded in watercolour by the artists.

In March 1802 Matthew Flinders had recorded in his journal: 'Some of the party saw several large running birds, which, according to their description, seemed to have been the emu or cassowary'. The French sighted Kangaroo Island or Pygmy Emus on the Island's west coast, the location later named Ravine de Casoars - zoologist Péron thought the birds were cassowaries. Dromaius baudinianus was restricted to Kangaroo Island and became extinct probably around the late 1820s due to hunting and loss of habitat following land clearances. Leseuer's artwork is a distinctive record of the species.

Baudin died in 1803 on the homeward voyage. From 1804, Leseuer and Péron worked on publishing the results of the expedition. The first volume Voyage de découvertes aux Terres Australes, written by Péron and illustrated with forty plates by Lesueur, was published in 1807. Péron died in 1810, after which surveyor and map maker Louis de Freycinet continued to edit the voyage's account.

With the artists accompanying the Flinders' expedition to New Holland, Lesueur and Petit were the first Europeans to portray the land, people, animals, plants and marine life of South Australia.

Related names :

Peron, Francois, 1775-1810

Baudin, Nicolas, 1754-1803

Petit, Nicolas-Martin, 1777-1804

Lesueur, Charles Alexandre, 1778-1846

Coverage year : 1802
Region : Kangaroo Island
Further reading :

Baudin in Australian waters: the artwork of the French voyage of discovery to the southern lands 1800-1804 / edited by Jacqueline Bonnemains, Elliott Forsyth and Bernard Smith. Melbourne: Oxford University Press in association with the Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1988

The Encounter 1802: art of the Flinders and Baudin voyages / [compiled by] Sarah Thomas Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2002

Hunt, Susan. Terre Napoléon, Australia through French eyes, 1800-1804, Sydney : Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales in association with Hordern House, 1999

Lesueur, Charles Alexandre. Les velins de Charles-Alexandre Lesueur (Museum d'Histoire Naturelle du Havre): exposition du 4 mai au 2 juin 1996, Le Havre, France: The Museum, 1996

Petit, Nicolas-Martin. Oeuvres de Nicolas-Martin Petit, artiste du voyage aux Terres Australes (1800-1804): exposition du 1er juin au 31 décembre 1997, Le Havre: Muséum d'histoire naturelle de Havre, Collection Lesueur, 1997

Mander-Jones, Phyllis. 'The artists who sailed with Baudin and Flinders', Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, South Australian Branch, vol. 66, 1964-65

Internet links :
Exhibitions and events :

State Library of South Australia: Mortlock Wing. Taking it to the edge August 2004-



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