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La Perouse
, 1830s

by Thomas Woolnoth (engraver) and William Mackenzie, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London & New York (publisher)

engraving (sheet: 27.7 cm x 18.4 cm)

Jean-François de Galaup la Pérouse, Comte de la Pérouse (1741–1788), navigator, joined the French navy as a boy, rising to the rank of captain and serving with distinction and humanity in campaigns against the English in Hudson Bay in 1782. Selected to lead the French expedition seeking to ratify Cook’s discoveries in the Pacific and clarify geographical mysteries in the Bering Sea, he left in command of the Boussole and L’Astrolabe in 1785. After touching at Alaska, California, Macao, Manila, Korea, Sakhalin Island and Kamchatka (whence he dispatched his journals) he headed for New Holland. In Samoa eleven of the Astrolabe’s crew were killed, but he made no reprisals. He was seen off the coast of Botany Bay in January 1788, and welcomed ashore by John Hunter. He stayed for six weeks in the area that now bears his name; but on 10 March he sailed away, never to be seen again. During the French revolution, it was rumoured that the English had had a hand in his disappearance. A search led by Bruny d’Entrecasteaux in 1791 proved fruitless; it was not until 1828 that Dumont d’Urville established that he had wrecked at Santa Cruz. The four-volume Voyage De La Pérouse Autour du Monde, the account of his journey as far as Kamchatka, was published in Paris in 1797 and translated into English a few years later.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of Ted and Gina Gregg 2012
Accession number: 2012.80