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

by an unknown artist

oil on canvas (frame: 82.0 cm x 91.5 cm depth 8.5 cm, support: 60.5 cm x 70.5 cm)

Marianne Egan and her children Gertrude Cahuac and Henry Cahuac were 38, 18 and 20 years old respectively when they died in the Dunbar maritime disaster. Marianne, Gertrude and Henry embarked on the Dunbar with 120 other passengers in May 1857, intending to return to Sydney. Having made good progress, the ship met with foul weather as it arrived off the coast of Sydney around midnight on 20 August. Missing the entrance to Sydney Harbour, the ship was driven by violent seas into cliffs near South Head and ‘rent into a thousand pieces.’ Everyone on board, with the exception of a sailor named James Johnson, perished. While images exist of the sole survivor, this is the only known portrait of victims of the tragedy. The family had sat for the portrait in England but it was unfinished at the time the Dunbar sailed. The painting followed on another vessel, arriving safely a few months after the deaths of its subjects.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased with funds provided by the Liangis family 2014
Accession number: 2014.48