In July, 1984, a group of Australian and French residents formed the Laperouse Association for the Australian Bicentenary with the aim of establishing a museum in memory of Laperouse, on the very site where his expedition had arrived to witness the first six weeks of British settlement in Australia. The Cable Station at La Perouse in the Botany Bay National Park was chosen to house the museum.
The museum commemorates the achievements of Laperouse and other French navigators in the Pacific, and records their significant role in the exploration of the Australian coastline.
Officially opened by the Hon. R.J. Carr, M.P., Minister for Environment and Planning, on the 23rd February, 1988, the museum was present to the New South Wales Government, in the name of the Laperouse Association, by the French minister Mr Andre Giraud, as President of the Comite Francais pour le Bicentenaire de l’Australie.
In keeping with the spirit of cooperation required to create it, this museum also seeks to perpetuate and further strengthen the long-lasting ties between Australia and France.
For details of the Collection : Link to Description of Laperouse Museum
Artists on the Expedition
Lieutenant Blondela and Gaspard Duché de Vancy
Voyage of Jean Françoise Galaup de la Pérouse (1785-1788)
“He will direct the draughtsmen embarked on board the frigates, to take views of all remarkable places and countries, portraits of the natives of different parts, their dresses, ceremonies, games, buildings, boats and vessels, and all the productions of the sea and land, in each of the three kingdoms of nature, if he shall think that drawings of them will render the descriptions more intelligible.”
French navigator Jean Françoise Galaup de la Pérouse, commanding ship, L’Astrolabe and La Boussole, embarked on a voyage of scientific discovery. The scientific contributions were small, due to the untimely and tragic disappearance of both vessels and crew after leaving Botany Bay, Australia in October 1788. But fortunately the coastline charting and artistic contributions were monumental. La Pérouse regularly sent reports, charts, and drawings back to France throughout his expedition. The wreckage of La Pérouse’s ships on the island of Vanikoro were later discovered through the efforts of Peter Dillion and further investigation by J.S.C. Dumont-Durville. Stories from local people recounted that many of the shipwrecked survivors were murdered. Compellingly, one of the boats, through wrecked, had survivors who were able to modify the ship into a two-masted vessel, and all of those men but two, sailed away into permanent disappearance.
The official publication in 1797 was entitled, Voyage de La Pérouse Autour du Monde, Publié Conformément au Décret du 22 Avril 1791, et Rédige par M.L.A. Milet-Mureau. It was published in 4 volumes with an accompanying folio atlas.
The folio atlas contains 66 plates, seven of which relate to the Pacific Northwest, particularly the Port des Français, now known as Lituya Bay in southeast Alaska. The plates include a drawing by Blondela, “Vue d’un Établissement des Habitans du Port des Français pour La Saison de la Pêche.” engraved by Le Grande; a bird; habitation and dress of the inhabitants of the Port des Français by de Vancy; the loss of two French boats in the bay; and boats in the Port des Français by Blondela.
La Boussole (113 men):
Gaspard Duchè de Vancy, official artist of the expedition, was raised in Vienna and exhibited artworks at the Salon of Young Artists in Paris in 1781 and at the Royal Academy in London in 1784. He was commissioned to execute several royal portraits including: Stanislaus of Poland, the secretary of the Kingdom of Naples, both in 1784, and Marie Antoinette of unknown date. A print of de Vancy’s depicting Voltaire’s Chamber of the Heart is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Link to prints of de Vancy.
Jean-Louis Prevost (nephew of Guillaume Prevost) – Botanical Artist
l’Astrolabe (113 men):
Lieutenant Michel Francois Blondela (1741-1788) entered the French military as a volunteer in 1777 and continued his naval service on the east coast of the United States, in the West Indies and back in France before joining the La Pérouse expedition. While not officially assigned as artist to the expedition, Blondela’s talents were a great asset to the voyage’s visual record. La Pérouse commented on Blondela in his journal, “he applies himself with a degree of assiduity, and executes with an intelligence, order and neatness, that are deserving of the highest encomiums”