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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Maritime disaster leaves poignant picture

When the portrait of Marianne Egan and her children arrived in Sydney, its three sitters were not there to take delivery of the work. The trio had perished in a shipwreck several months earlier.

Marianne, the daughter of former convicts, married high-profile NSW public servant and elected official Daniel Egan in 1843. In late 1855, Marianne, with her children from her first marriage – twenty year-old Henry and eighteen year-old Gertrude – visited England, where they sat for this triple portrait painting. In August 1857, almost home on their return journey aboard the good ship Dunbar, tragedy struck. Having missed the entrance to Sydney Harbour, the ship was driven by violent seas into cliffs near South Head, and ‘rent into a thousand pieces’. Only one sailor survived the wreck. A ghostly keepsake, the portrait of Daniel Egan’s lost family arrived safely in Sydney on another ship a few months later. In 1860, Daniel commissioned three stained glass windows commemorating his wife and step-children for installation in St Mary’s cathedral, which was then under construction.

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Related information

Marianne Egan and her children Gertrude Evans Cahuac and Henry William Cahuac, 1857 an unknown artist
Marianne Egan and her children Gertrude Evans Cahuac and Henry William Cahuac, 1857 an unknown artist
Marianne Egan and her children Gertrude Evans Cahuac and Henry William Cahuac, 1857 an unknown artist
Marianne Egan and her children Gertrude Evans Cahuac and Henry William Cahuac, 1857 an unknown artist

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Australian Love Stories

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.