Saturday 30 June 2018

Mutiny on the Bounty

Yes,  I know it is not French!  But, after following La Pérouse to the South Pacific, who can blame me for being distracted by the Mutiny on the Bounty....

I chanced to come across this impressive documentary, which was originally made for the History Channel and broadcast as part of the "Sea Tales" series in 1997.  The narrator is Patrick Tull.  The talking heads are Ray Maloney, Sven Wahlroos and Greg Dening, author of the classic study Mr Bligh's Bad Language. The video is well worth watching if you are interested in18th-century exploration, the Georgian Navy - or just human psychology.

Friday 29 June 2018

Le Puy du Fou - La Pérouse sails again...

The new La Pérouse attraction opened at Le Puy du Fou theme park in April.  The most impressive and widely cited fact about it is the tremendous cost of construction - a cool 10 million euros.  This has mostly gone into recreating a state-of-the-art computer-controlled mock-up of La Boussole, tossing to destruction on the stormy seas of the South Pacific.

Thursday 28 June 2018

La Pérouse - some books and websites

Associations, museums and memorials:
FRANCE - Musée de la Marine
Musée National de la Marine (Paris & Brest)
Search the collections online:

The museum in Paris is  closed until 2021.for refurbishment.  The museum in Brest (in the historic château)  currently has one room dedicated to La Pérouse, which contains a copy of the bust by  François Rude, various objects from the shipwrecks and a video of the excavations organised by the  Association Salomon.

L' Association Lapérouse Albi France

Musée Lapérouse musées:   Albi  Musée Lapérouse.

Association Salomon
Association created by the late Alain Conan in 1981.  Details of the various archaeological investigations, plus news of current activities.  It offers the option of an English version, but I haven't made it work so far.

Musée maritime de Nouvelle-Calédonie
The New Caledonia Martime History museum, opened in 1999 and entirely renovated in 2012, now houses the majority of artefacts from the excavations.  Website includes photos of the La Pérouse exhibits as they are displayed in the museum, plus a virtual tour . [Google streetview will also land you inside the museum] .

Collection La Pérouse
Website providing a comprehensive listing of finds from the shipwreck sites. Themed listings in English;  searchable catalogue in French only. Some 4,600 objects.  Detailed and beautifully illustrated historical section, covering the voyage, its various stages, the shipwreck and the subsequent search for the lost expedition.

La Perouse Museum & Headland, Sydney

Page detailing the Museum collection
e-hive La Perouse Museum catalogue

The La Perouse Museum & Headland Trust manages the museum, the Laperouse and Receveur monuments and surrounding space which is part of the Kamay Botany Bay National Park. The Museum, which opened in 1988, is housed in the former Cable Station building.

The  website is one of the best English-language La Pérouse  resources, by no means no means confined the expedition's sojourn in Sydney. There are details of New World  La Pérouse scholarship with links to relevant works and a blog of current news from around the world. 

Lapérouse aujourd'hui: les lieux commémoratifs: video created by students in Albi.

The resting-place of the unknown mariner from Vanikoro, in the grounds of the château de Brest; the vault is marked by a rose des vents, built from local stones.

Alain Boulaire, " L’inhumation à Brest de l’inconnu de Vanikoro", La Revue Maritime  no. 492

Cape Soya, Hokkaido

Monument on Cap Soya, Hokkaido, facing La Pérouse Strait. erected in 2007 through the joint initiative the Association Lapérouse Albi-France and the city of Wakkanaï.

Françoise Massard, "Un monument à la mémoire de La Pérouse au Cap Soya (Hokkaido)", on the

Some books:

In English:

Sir Ernest Scott, Laperouse (1912)

John Robson, A Short Biography of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, 1741-1788 (last updated 2005)

John Dunmore, When Fate beckons: The life of Jean-François de Lapérouse (2008)
University of Alaska Press. 292 pages. £18.76.  e-book: £6.99 from Google.
Biography by the New Zealand academic and editor of the Voyages.
Preview on Google Books: 
Review article: 

In French:

J.P.Faivre, La tragique expedition d Lapérouse et Langle (1954)

Catherine Gaziello, L'expédition de Lapérouse : 1785-1788 : réplique française aux voyages de Cook (1984) 
The most comprehensive, archive-based study. Still often cited.
15% available on Gallica: including the bibliography.

François Bellec, La généreuse et tragique expédition Lapérouse (1985)

Ouest-France. 267 pages.
By the former director of the Musée de la Marine from 1980 to 1997, writer and maritime artist. Also author of a novel based on the expedition.

Yves Jacob L’énigme Lapérouse (2000). 
Taillandier. 296 pages.

Pierre Bérard, Le voyage de La Pérouse : Itinéraire et aspects singuliers (2010)
 Edition Un Autre Reg'Art. 175 pages.  OOP.
Small extract on Google Books

By the former president of the Association Lapérouse Albi.
This is definitely the book for you, if you want grown-up information on the specifications of the ships, the technical aspects of navigation, the cartography and scientific observations.  With good maps, and illustrations by the military artist Jean Bellis.

François Bellec, Les Esprits de Vanikoro: Le mystère Lapérouse (2006) 
Gallimard. Album, 256 pages.OOP.
Illustrated account of the 2005 expedition aboard the Jacques Cartier with parallels to the original voyage.

John Pendray, Sur les traces de La Pérouse. Carnets d'expédition à Vanikoro (2006) 
Editions Glénat. 110 pages. OOP.
Sketchbooks and watercolours by John Pendray, the official painter for the French Navy, who accompanied the 2006 expedition.

Association Salomon, Le Mystère Lapérouse, ou le Rêve inachevé d'un roi (2008)
Editions de Conti. 399 pages. OOP.
The book published to accompany the 2008 exhibition. I managed to find a copy on ebay for under £20.  All you need to know, plus gorgeous illustrations on shiny paper!

Anne Pons, Lapérouse  (2010)
Gallimard/ Mass Market Paperback. 302 pages. 
Volume in the Folio Biographie series.
The most widely available biography. 

Jean Guillou, La Pérouse...Et après: Dernières nouvelles du mystère de l'Astrobale (2011)
Harmattan, 144 pages
Preview on Amazon and on Google Books 
Chapters on the Laborde brothers, Lengle, the early voyages in search of the expedition, the supposed ancestors of Simon Lavo.

Jean-Christophe Galipaud & Valérie Jauneau, Au-delà d’un naufrage. Les survivants de l’expédition Lapérouse (2012)
Editions Errance.
The archaeological evidence from Vanikoro. 
Although the book adds more detail, but the ultimate fate of the survivors remains a mystery.
Summary / review:

Claude Pisano & Joël Deville,  Paul Antoine Fleuriot de Langle : second de l'expédition La Pérouse, commandant de l'Astrolabe, l'oublié de l'histoire (2012)
Editions Serre  160 pages.

Dominique Le Brun (ed.) La malédiction Lapérouse (2012) 
Omnibus. Histoire 881 pages.
This is an edition of the Voyages of LP, plus various other documents. You can read the introduction on Google Books preview:
Gérard Piouffre, Lapérouse:  la voyage sans retour  (2016)
Vuibert. 240 pages.  
Amazon Kindle preview: 
This looks a clear and well-documented account; includes all the new material from the shipwrecks. I'm watching out for a cheap copy


La Pérouse, website by Patrick Michel

"Les marins célèbres" on [Entries for La Pérouse, D'Entrecasteaux and Dumont d'Urville]

Musée de la Marine, "Un voyage de découvertes au siècle des Lumières" [pdf]
Analysis and useful selection from the documents.
Musée de la Marine, Virtual voyage  [Created for the 2008 exhibition]

Robert Dumas, "Le voyage de Lapérouse" - Académie des Sciences et Lettres de Montpellier, 2009

 Europe 1 Radio:  "La malédiction Lapérouse"  Au coeur de l'histoire, broadcast 20/08/2013
Franck Ferrand's guests were Jean-Christophe Galipaud, archaeologist in charge of the excavations on Vanikoro, and Dominique Le Brun editor of the collection La malédiction Lapérouse (2012).

Marthe Melguen, "French voyages of exploration and science in the Age of Enlightenment: an ocean of discovery throughout the Pacific Ocean"
in Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the IAMSLIC (2004)  [open access]

Tessa Morris-Suzuki, "The telescope and the tinderbox: rediscovering La Pérouse in the North Pacific", East Asian History 39 (2014) [online]

Members of the expedition:

Listed on Wikipédie:

Genealogical project by the Centre Généalogique du Finistère 

Fleuriot de Langle
Philippe Henwood, "Fleuriot de Langle et l'expédition de Lapérouse", Dix-huitième Siècle, no.19, 1987, p. 245-262.

Alain Monnié, Un Monti compagnon de La Pérouse

Père Receveur

F.R.L. Carleton,"An eighteenth century Conventual Franciscan naturalist on the Lapérouse expedition: : Père Laurent Receveur (1757-1788)." The Great Circle  1993, 15(1): p.18-29 [available on JStor].

Simon Lavo
Alain Denizet "Le fabuleux destin de Simon Lavo, chirurgien major de Lapérouse"  Histoire-Généalogie, 17.09.2009 

Ivan Barko, "Lepaute-Dagelet at Botany Bay and his encounter-with William Dawes" (2010)

Shipwreck and archaeology of Vanikoro: 

Wikipédie, "Expéditions menées sur les traces de La Pérouse"

TV documentaries by Yves Bourgeois:
Thalassa: "L'expédition Lapérouse : Au-delà d’un naufrage".  Published on YouTube, 30.06.17.

Vincent Groizeleau, "La France lance une ultime expédition pour percer le mystère Lapérouse", Mer et Marine, report of 19.03.2008

Wednesday 27 June 2018

A unique survivor? La Pérouse's Banksia

In 2012 modern science attempted to bring back to life a unique survivor from the La Pérouse expedition, when the Conservatoire botanique national  - a specialist botanical conservation facility located in Brest - sought to germinate six seeds salvaged from the wreck of the Boussole.  

The seeds in question - from the Banksia tree, discovered on Cook's first voyage and named for Joseph Banks - were collected by La Pérouse's naturalists in Botany Bay in 1788. In December 2010, they finally completed the journey  home to France, 222 years after they set sail.  

Monday 25 June 2018

Massacre Bay - conflicting visions

To a large extent, what happened at Massacre Bay is riddle without a key;  We have La Pérouse's account, but the viewpoint of the Samoans is lost.  It can only be guessed at from a mixture of oral tradition, anthropological insights and oblique references in later accounts of Samoan culture.  Among modern studies, the crucial research is that of the French anthropologist Serge Tcherkézoff, Professor Emeritus at the Australian National University in Canberra .  His book First Contacts in Polynesia (2008) is freely available on JStor.  What follows is mostly summarised from his conclusions.

Sunday 24 June 2018

Massacre Bay - the death of Fleuriot de Langle

Nicolas Marie Ozanne, Massacre of MM de Langle, Lamanon and ten others,
plate 68 of Atlas du Voyage de La Pérouse (1797) [detail]

Anonymous miniature of Langle, his only 
known portrait

The discoveries in Vanikoro have encouraged renewed interest in other members of the expedition, notably, La Pérouse's second-in-command, and friend ("mon vicaire"), the commander of the Astrolabe, Paul-Antoine-Marie Fleuriot de Langle. 

Jean Claude Thomas, a local historian in Langle's birthplace, Quemper-Guezennec in Brittany, recounts how in September 2003, he was telephoned from distant Nomea by Jean Gillou of the Association Salomon, with a request for information.  This sparked off a campaign to secure recognition for Langle, an "oublié de l'histoire", which culminated on 3rd July 2004 in the inauguration of a memorial stele.

 Langle's death at the hands of natives in Samoa in December 1787 cast a sombre shadow over the final months of the voyage, eclipsed only by the final catastrophe that engulfed the whole expedition.

Thursday 21 June 2018

Louis-Philippe Crépin: disaster in Lituya Bay, 1786

Louis-Philippe Crépin, Shipwreck off the Coast of Alaska 
Oil on canvas, 104 cm x 149 cm.
Seattle Art Museum

In 2017 the Seattle Art Museum pulled off the considerable coup of acquiring this iconic painting by Louis-Philippe Crépin, which depicts a tragic incident from the voyage of La Pérouse which took place in Lituya Bay in Alaska on 13th July 1786. Against an awe-inspiring backdrop of mountains and glaciers, two ship's boats were dramatically overwhelmed by the sea, with the loss of twenty-one lives.  Among those drowned were the  two sons of the wealthy financier, the marquis Jean-Joseph de Laborde, sponsor of the expedition and a personal friend of La Pérouse.  The elder brother Edouard-Jean-Joseph de Laborde Marchainville (b.1762), "tall, blond, and well instructed in navigation"  was a lieutenant on board the Astrolabe; the younger Ange-Auguste-Joseph de Laborde de Boutervilliers (b.1766) a naval cadet.  According to legend Marie-Antoinette herself had prevailed on La Pérouse to take them both with him.  Lengle as commander of the Astrolabe, made it his "inviolable rule" never to allow them in the same party, but on this occasion he had made an exception; he saw the excursion "as little more than a party of pleasure, in which the boats would be no more exposed to danger than in Brest Road in fine weather". In a letter of 22 September 1786, he wrote to his mother, "I had the indelible pain of seeing perish  MM. de Laborde, the brothers, M. de Flaissan and seven men from my crew in the same boat." 

Wednesday 20 June 2018

La Pérouse at Monterey - an early image of California

Copy of Duché de Vancy's painting, now in the  Museo Naval Madrid

This little picture, a copy of an original watercolour by Duché de Vancy, depicts the visit of La Pérouse and his officers to the Mission San Carlos in the Carmel Valley in September 1786. It is usually credited with being the very first artistic representation of the state of California.

Friday 15 June 2018

Boilly at the National Gallery

Boilly: Scenes of Parisian Life
to be held at the National Gallery 
28 February – 19 May 2019

Something to brighten up a gloomy February next year!  The National Gallery has just officially announced an upcoming exhibition of works by Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761-1845).

The exhibition will feature 20 unpublished works from the Ramsbury Manor Foundation which, acccording to the National Gallery press release, "represent the highlights of Boilly's long career in Paris, from 1785 to the 1830s".

Boilly, who was born near Lille, worked in Douai and Arras, before settling in Paris in 1785. With the Revolution he abandoned intimate interior scenes for private patrons and began to produce pictures for public exhibition, including ambitious street scenes.  He exhibited  regularly at the Paris salon between 1791 and 1824. The picture used for the exhibition banner is "A Carnival on the Boulevard du Crime', painted in 1832.

The London exhibition will also include drawn and painted portraits, both of private clients and Boilly's own family; and examples of trompe l'oeil -  a term Boilly himself is said to have coined.
From controversially seductive interior scenes, which saw him get into trouble with the authorities, to ‘first-of-their-kind’ everyday street scenes and clever trompe l’oeils, this exhibition shows Boilly’s daring responses to the changing political environment and art market he encountered, and highlights his sharp powers of observation and wry sense of humour.

The exhibition gives National Gallery a chance to showcase its one solitary Boilly, "A Girl at a window", which is a grisaille based on a painting submitted to the1799 Salon.

The Ramsbury Manor Foundation  is the custodian of the collection of the late property billionaire Harry Hyams, builder of Centre Point,"the Howard Hughes of British Business". During his lifetime Hyams amassed a vast number of  paintings, antiques and vintage vehicles, which he kept at his home in Ramsbury Manor, a secluded 17th-century house near Marlborough.  (In 2006 he had the dubious distinction of falling victim to  "the largest domestic burglary ever perpetrated in Britain" when 300 pieces valued at over £30 m were stolen from Ramsbury Manor by the notorious Johnson Gang.)
On his death in 2015 Hyams left £450m to establish a trust to make Ramsbury Manor and its art treasures accessible to the public.   The first opening is planned to take place in  eighteen months time.

Hyams’s collection includes paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Stubbs and Turner.  Turner’s The Bridgewater Seapiece (1801) is currently on loan to the National Gallery.   Others , such as Burne-Jones's Tristran and Iseult (1872), Millais's Cherry Ripe (1879) are known works.

The Boillys, however,  have not only never been exhibited, most have never been photographed or catalogued.


National Gallery, Exhibitions
Press release

Maev Kennedy,"French artist whose paintings survived raid to get first UK show" The Guardian, article of 31.05.18

Friday 1 June 2018

News from Ferney

1st June

Yesterday, President Macron, accompanied by Françoise Nyssen, the French Minister of Culture, visited the château de Ferney-Voltaire  ahead of today's reopening after three years of renovations. It was a suitably glossy occasion, with much trumpeting of patriotic and liberal values - how Voltaire himself would have adored it all!

Perhaps we really are back in the 18th century, for President Macron took the occasion to announce a brand new national lottery project.  The scheme will features 15-euro "heritage" scratchcards and is intended to finance the restoration of a whole list of national historic buildings. 

Refuser la fatalité de la bêtise et le repli sur soi, telle est l'identité de l'esprit français. Nous le devons à Voltaire et à son combat continu pour la tolérance. Venir chez lui, à Ferney-Voltaire, c'est souligner la force de nos valeurs.

The restoration at Ferney, which is state-owned, has been organised by the Centre des monuments nationaux (CMN) and has cost some 8 million euros.  Much of the work has been necessary and structural - treatment for dry rot, a new roof, new sandstone facing for the facades, a new veranda to showcase the view of Mont Blanc. The garden, which was in a really sorry state, has also been completely renewed.  I was a little worried what would happen to the interior, but the renovation has been very carefully handled and, judging from the photos, the artefacts are pretty much where they always were.  (I was particularly relieved to see the horrible "Apotheosis of Voltaire", so beloved of the great man, has retained its prominent place....)

The photos of the interior are by Marshall B (Jun 2018), on Trip Advisor

Here is also a  nice video of the renovations as they near completion:
"Le château de Voltaire entièrement rénouvelé", TV Léman Bleu, 29.05.18

Personally, I am still quite glad that I was able to go to Ferney in 2015 and see the château in its dilapidated (and more or less deserted) state.  Not quite sure why:  maybe it just seemed more like a real house in its rundown condition. Let's hope the new renovations draw in the crowds though - they will certainly need a few more visitors to pay off the bills!

Print Friendly and PDF