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François Péron, c. 1805

Jean Henri Cless and Conrad Westermayr (engraver)

engraving (sheet: 18.5 cm x 11.3 cm, plate-mark: 13.1 cm x 8.6 cm, image: 9.4 cm x 6.9 cm)

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François Péron (1775–1810), naturalist and explorer, served as a soldier from 1792 to 1794, in which period he was imprisoned and lost the sight of one eye. After working as the town clerk in his home town, Cérilly, he studied medicine in Paris and in 1800 volunteered for Baudin’s expedition to the western and southern coasts of Australia. He hoped to observe the peoples encountered on the way, but was appointed a trainee zoologist instead. Peron and Baudin did not enjoy a happy relationship. Alongside artist Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, Peron gathered some 100,000 zoological specimens, which still comprises the largest Australasian natural history collection. He also conducted important experiments on deep water temperature, and wrote about Indigenous Tasmanians of the south east (Péron is credited with inventing the term ‘anthropology’). When Baudin died, Péron took over the official account of the expedition, Voyage de Découvertes aux Terres Australes, doing no favours to Baudin’s memory therein. Among his numerous other publications was a secret memo urging a French takeover of Port Jackson, to be achieved with the aid of disaffected Irish convicts. He died of tuberculosis at 35; Louis de Freycinet finished his account of the voyage. Peron is commemorated in François Péron National Park, located some 720 kilometres north of Perth.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.55

Currently on display: Gallery Three (Robert Oatley Gallery)

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Artist and subject

Jean Henri Cless

Conrad Westermayr (age 40 in 1805)

Francois Peron (age 30 in 1805)

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