Original drawing of a scene in Mauritius…
Original drawing of a scene in Mauritius: "Vue prise sur le chemin du Tamarin à l'ile de France".

Mauritius: 1801-1803.

Pencil sketch, 135 x 195 mm.; laid down on the original blue-paper mount, signed on the lower left of the mount and captioned.

Rare original view in Mauritius by one of Baudin's artists

A striking pencil sketch by the Baudin voyage artist Milbert, done in the south-west of Mauritius after he had jumped ship from the Géographe in 1801.

A striking pencil sketch by the Baudin voyage artist Milbert, done in the south-west of Mauritius after he had jumped ship from the Géographe in 1801.

Jacques-Gérard Milbert (1766-1840) joined the Baudin expedition as one of the official artists but took advantage of an illness to be left in Port Louis when the ships sailed for New Holland (several of his shipmates commented that the artist had seemed depressed and anxious about the voyage). In a curious twist, Milbert was still in Port Louis when the Géographe returned from Australia in 1803, and rejoined the expedition.

Back in France, Milbert was given the task of overseeing the publication of the plates for Péron and Freycinet's official account (1807-1816), and also wrote his own companion account, the Voyage Pittoresque of 1812, a work of great significance for the natural history of the region, in which he described himself as both a Baudin artist and the "directeur" of engravings.

In his book Milbert wrote that during his time on the island he made two long expeditions in the south-east, and was overawed by the rugged wonder of the landscape, particularly in the locality of the present scene, along the small and remote Rivière du Tamarin with its "plusieurs cascades magnifiques." He poetically recounted how in the region one travelled to the sound of the blows of the axes clearing a path through the liana which enveloped the trees, and how many of the larger trees appeared to have been thrown down by nature to serve the weaker and parasitic vegetations, and to nourish them in the otherwise barren earth: as a description of the present scene this could scarcely be bettered.

The sketch showcases Milbert's particular skill in rendering botanical scenes and makes an important addition to the rather slender group of known works by him, particularly relating to his time in the Indian Ocean. Of the three men in the clearing, the seated figure at far left in a hat is likely to be Milbert himself, given that a similar figure with a palette also appears in many of his finished engravings.

On an intimate scale and full of botanical detail, this sketch makes a fascinating counterpoint to the great engraved views of his book, most obviously one showing the main waterfall at the nearby "Cascade du Tamarin", but also to several others which show slaves labouring to fell trees and mill logs.

Provenance: United States source, believed to derive from the same original source as the Lesueur drawing described at catalogue number 3 and to have been among the archive left in America by Milbert.

Nicolas Baudin, The Journal of Post Captain Nicolas Baudin (Adelaide, 1974); Jacques Gérard Milbert, Voyage pittoresque à l'Ile de France (Paris, 1812).

Price (AUD): $12,500.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504851