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Mauritius & South Africa 1825-8 | South America 1851/8 | New Zealand 1840

Robert Marsh Westmacott in Mauritius and South Africa


An album containing 30 works in sepia wash, pencil, and watercolour is in the National Library of Australia, Nan Kivell Collection, NK762/43-72. It was originally offered for sale as part of lots 634 and 901 in the Museum Book Store sale of 1929, from the Westmacott family collection. Containing views of Mauritius (182526), Brazil (1858), Lisbon, Marseilles and Abyssinia. According to the Museum Book Store catalogue, 12 views of Mauritius were offered for sale as part of lot 634; and 25 drawings of "Brazils, South America and other places" were offered with lot 901. These views have subsequently been incorporated into the one album. Some chronological divisions may be made within the 30 extant works. Those of Mauritius may be dated at 1825-26, whilst those of South America were executed during 1858.

Mauritius 1825-26

Lieutenant Robert Marsh Westmacott was stationed at Mauritius sometime between 1825-26, during the Governorship of Sir Galbraith Lawny Cole. A note in the Sydney Morning Herald of 30 April 1844 records:

"[Captain Westmacott] had been practically engaged for many years, in land surveying, and that in the Isle of France, under the command of Sir Harry Cole, he had assisted in surveying nearly the whole of the Island of Mauritius."

Mauritius appears to have been Westmacott's first overseas posting. At the time he was attached to the Royal Staff Corps and achieved the rank of Lieutenant in September, 1825. Mauritius had for many years been a haven for pirates, and variously claimed by the French and Dutch. In 1810 the British invaded the island and defeated the small French force. By the time of Westmacott's arrival it had settled down to being another valuable British colony, exporting sugar and serving as an important port of call in the Indian Ocean for the British fleet. As assistant to Sir Harry Cole, Westmacott would have been resident at either Port Louis, the island's capital, or Reduit, the Governor's residence. As the following views show, he travelled widely throughout the island during his stay there.

1. Port Louis Harbour, aqueduct and hospital from Grand River NW. Mauritius, or Isle of France, Civil Hospital and Signal Station [1825-26]

Pencil - 26.1 x 34.6cm - NK762/43

Port Louis is the capital and principal port of Mauritius, situated on the northwestern coast of the island. The civil hospital is seen in the right foreground; the signal station upon the mountain in the right background; and Port Louis harbour in the distance.

2. Ravine near Reduit. Ravine through which the Grande Rivere flows into the sea. [1825-26]

Pencil & Sepia wash - 14 x 21.3cm - NK762/45

View looking west along the Grande Rivere ravine towards the sea. A finely detailed pencil sketch, showing Westmacott's habit of cross-hatching. His later pencil work is not as complicated as in this drawing.

3. The "Trois Memel". Where Paul and Virginia lost themselves when upon their road to Black River to buy off the runaway slave [1825-26]

Sepia wash - 14.3 x 22.7cm - NK762/46

View of the Trois Memel, a group of volcanic peaks near the Mauritian coast. "Paul and Virginia" refers to the legendary novel written by French author Bernardin St Pierre in 1789. This work tells the tragic love tale of a young couple - Paul and Virginia - resident on Mauritius. It was a best seller upon publication and is still recognized in the French speaking world as a classic literary work. (Riviere, p.95).

4. The Falls at the "Oaks", "Terre Rouge", Mauritius [1825-26]

Pencil - 14.1 x 23cm - NK762/48

View of the Falls, with a house on the ridge to the right.

5. The Champagne River and Lion Couchant Mountain [1825-26]

Pencil - 14.1 x 22.8cm - NK762/49

Coastal view with Lion Couchant Mountain on the right.

6. The Morne, Black River [1825-26]

Pencil - 14.1 x 23.1cm - NK762/53

Looking towards the coast, with a large, rounded, rocky headland (The Morne) in the centre of the view. The Black River district is the most sparsely populated of the island, being dry and hot. Le Morne is one of the chief villages of the region (Riviere, p12).

7. Champs de Mars and Montagne D'ecouverte [1825-26]

Sepia wash - 13.8 x 22.3cm - NK762/55

Street scene at Champ de Mars, with Montagne D'ecouverte in the background.

8. Reduit, the Governor's Country Residence Mauritius [1825-26]

Pencil - 14.2 x 22cm - NK762/56

View looking towards the residence and the surrounding countryside. Reduit was the home of the Governors of Mauritius from the middle eighteenth century. It was built near Moka by a French governor around 1750, and expanded upon by subsequent French and English governors.(Riviere, p107).

9. Peter Botte (1) and Pouce (2) [1825-26]

Pencil & Sepia wash - 14.2 x 23.4cm - NK762/58a

Peter Botte and Pouce are two adjacent volcanic peaks on the island, just north of Reduit. "Peter Botte" is the name given to the most famous of the two, and the steepest. It was named after Pieter Both, a famous Dutch sailor who was drowned in a wreck off Mauritius in 1615.

10. Military post at Yacote [1825-26]

Pencil & Sepia wash - 14.2 x 46.8cm - NK762/58b

A panorama in two sections. Yacote, or "Jacotet", is located on the southern tip of the island and therefore of strategic importance.

11. Seascape [1825-26]

Pencil - 7.6 x 11.4cm - NK762/71

Possibly a view of Port Louis Harbour, looking north west towards the sea. Pencil on cardboard, with an embossed frame.

Life & Times | Art - Lithographs | Art - Sketchbooks |
Mauritius & South Africa 1825-8 | South America 1851/8 | New Zealand 1840

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