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Joseph Selleny

An Austrian Artist in New South Wales, November-December 1858

M.K. Organ, J.E. Fletcher & G. Vladar


Joseph Selleny. Photograph taken at the time of his visit to Sydney in November 1858, possibly by Wilhem Hetzer. Collection: National Library of Australia.

Joseph Selleny (1824-75), landscape painter and lithographer, was born in the Viennese suburb of Meidling on 2 February 1824 (Thieme & Becker, 1907; Fletcher, 1992). He studied under Thomas Ender and Franz Steinfield at the Vienna Academy and by 1854, when he was awarded the Rome Prize by the Viennese Academy of Creative Arts, he was already the winner of nine art prizes and widely known for his balanced landscapes and precise studies of trees and plants. Selleny subsequently spent two years in Italy and was one of the many proteges of Archduke Ferdinand-Joseph Maximillian (1832-67), an Austrian admiral and younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph who went on to become Emperor of Mexico during the 1860s.

In March 1857 Selleny was appointed official artist on board the frigate Novara, and included as a member of the scientific expedition under the general command of Commodore Bernhard Aloys von Wüllerstorf-Urbair. The Novara was to be engaged in a circumnavigation of the globe between April 1857 and August 1859. The expedition started at Pola (also known as Pula in modern-day Croatia), went from there to Trieste and via Madeira to Capetown and Brazil, the islands of St. Paul and New Amsterdam in the Southern Ocean, to Ceylon and the Coromandel coast of Madras, to the Nicobares (already Austrian possessions under Empress Maria Theresa), to Singapore, to Java via the sea of Sunda, to the Phillipines, Hong Kong, Canton, Macao, up the Jangstekian through the south China seas to the Mariana, Caroline and Soloman Islands, through the coral seas to Australia and New Zealand, then via Tahiti and the Paumotu archipelago (Duke of Gloucester Island) to South America. The Novara arrived at Chile, then traveled on through the straits of Panama, past the Antilles and around the feared Cape Horn into the Atlantic, north to the Azores, and on to Trieste where she arrived after a trip lasting some two years.

Throughout the voyage, this 44 ton Austrian frigate was jam packed with 345 individuals, including crew and supernumeraries, plus supplies, scientific equipment, live animals and specimens. The scientific officers on board the Novara, and their respective areas of interest, included:

* Bernhard Aloys von Wüllerstorf-Urbair - Oceanography, hydrography, meteorology and geophysics

* Ferdinand Hochstetter - Mineralogy, geology and palaeontology

* Georg von Frauenfeld - Zoology, preservation of species

* Johannes Zelebor - Preservation of zoological species

* Eduard Schwarz - Botany

* Joseph Selleny - Artist

* Karl von Scherzer - Topographical geography, ethnology, economics and official historiographer of the expedition

* Robert Müller - Linguist and aid to Karl von Scherzer

An account of the voyage is to be found in a number of works, most notably Karl Scherzer's three volume Reise der Öesterreichischen Fregatte Novara um die Erde in den Jahren 1857-1859 unter den Befehlen des Commodore B. von Wüllerstorf-Urbair (Vienna, 1861-3) and its English translation Narrative of the circumnavigation of the globe by the Austrian frigate Novara (London, 1861-3), the former liberally illustrated throughout with 224 wood engravings and lithographs, almost all after original works by Joseph Selleny.

Known for his lightening speed in delineation, the artist produced strongly linear, objective drawings which leaned heavily on a practical knowledge of botany and geology. His colours, invariably ochre, green, blue or red, were applied with thrift. When the Novara returned in triumph to Trieste in August 1859, Selleny's bulging portfolios held over 2000 sketches. More than thirty artists subsequently worked from these to produce illustrations for the nineteen volume (8175 page) Reise der Novara (Vienna, 1861-77), and a special Novara exhibition, attracting some 10,000 visitors, was mounted in Vienna's Augarten on 1 May 1860, after a partial exhibit in Trieste. Plans in Vienna to produce a chromolithographic album of Selleny's most striking oils, watercolours and drawings never came to fruition. A comprehensive list of some 957 works done in connection with the Novara expedition is contained in L. Popelka's Ein Österreichischer Maler Segelt um die Welt: Joseph Selleny und siene Aquarelle von der Weltreise der Novara, 1857-1859 [An Austrian Painter Sails Around the World: Joseph Selleny and his Watercolours from the Voyage of the Novara, 1857-1859] (Graz-Koln, 1964).

Following on this work, Selleny spent the last two years of his life in the darkness of a total mental collapse. When he died on 22 May 1875 in a private asylum at Inzersdorf near Vienna, his heirs (two sisters) inherited the 946 Novara items still in his possession, with the rest having gone into public and private collections. A memorial exhibition which showed 540 of these works was held in the Vienna Kunstlerhaus from November 1875 until January 1876 (see Katalog der Kunst-Ausstellung im Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, 15 November 1875). In May 1876 a list of works from the estate was drawn up and eventually placed in the War Archives Office, Navy Section during 1882. Also during that year, the Pola Navy Museum exhibited 94 of Selleny's ethnic studies. On Friday, 29 February 1884, the Viennese auction house of C.J. Wawra held a sale of some 760 of Selleny's Novara works from his estate, at which point this invaluable collection was broken up and dispersed.

With regards to the Australian leg of the Novara expedition, and related works by Selleny, some forty one original Australian paintings and drawings are listed in Popelka, with another seventeen engravings and lithographs also known. All fifty eight works are described in the Catalogue below. A brief out of Selleny's Australian visit is be found in Fletcher (1992), whilst a more fulsome record of the Novara's time in New South Wales, with occasional reference to Selleny, is to be found in the latter author's 'Karl Scherzer and the Visit of the Novara to Sydney, 1858' (Fletcher, 1985).

Selleny in Australia

The Novara was at Sydney between 5 November and 7 December 1858. Like many of the other scientific officers attached to the expedition, Joseph Selleny lived on shore for the majority of the stay, glad to be free of the confined conditions existing on board ship as a result of the expanded compliment of 345 and associated stores, provisions, and equipment. During his stay at the Royal Hotel, Sydney, Selleny's health was not the best, with the artist suffering from a distemper. The probable origin of this illness was a monkey bite which the artist suffered whilst at sea on 15 October 1858. Apparently the monkeys on board escaped from their cage and during Sunday mass ran amok among Selleny's equipment. Despite this inconvenience, during his stay in the Colony he made several excursions, most notably one to the north of Sydney and the Hunter River with entomologist Georg Frauenfeld. During this episode the Austrians visited the family of the ever hospitable Alexander Walker Scott, a noted scientist in the filed of Lepidoptera (butterflies). Selleny also traveled south with Karl Scherzer and the Commodore of the Novara to Wollongong and the picturesque Illawarra district, where the party gathered botanical and fauna specimens. During the latter visit Selleny produced studies in watercolour, crayon, charcoal and pencil of the bush near Camden Park, Appin and Broughton's Pass west of the Illawarra escarpment (refer Catalogue of Works below). He also took portraits of the local Aborigines.

Table 1: Joseph Selleny's Itinerary, November-December 1858


5 The Novara, 44 ton Austrian Imperial sloop of war (frigate), arrives in Sydney Harbour from Shanghai on the 11th August.

8 Joseph Selleny at the Scott family farm, Ash Island, Hunter River.

12 Sydney

15 Sydney

16 Camden Park

17 Appin.

18 Selleny and party arrive at Wollongong.

19 Selleny at Fairy Meadow Farm, Illawarra.

20 Osborne Wallsend coal mine, Mount Keira.

21 Bargo and Broughton Pass.

23 Selleny sketches in Macleay's garden, Darling Point, Sydney.

24 A welcome to the crew of the HIMS Novara is given by the German residents of Sydney, with a party on board.

30 The Commodore and crew of the Novara hold a ball on board for the elite of Sydney


1 Selleny sketches Darling Point

3 Selleny produces a number of watercolours of Illawarra Aborigines and a New Zealander who was part of the Illawarra party

7 The Novara departs Sydney for Auckland.

20 Barrier Island, New Zealand

21 Great Barrier and Cuvier's Island, New Zealand. Selleny finishes Illawarra Aboriginal portraits.

24 Taranaki, New Zealand.

Whilst in the Hunter, Selleny was fortunate to meet up with local botanical and landscape artists Helena and Harriet Scott, daughters of A.W. Scott and resident at Ash Island on the Hunter River. The artist was working at that place by 8 November, two days after the arrival in the Colony. Here he assisted with the design for the front cover of, and did several drawings of specimens for, the first part of Walker Scott's illustrated book Australian Lepidoptera and their transformation (London, 1864). The cover illustration was much admired, with Frauenfeld noting that 'the whole picture [reflecting] the greatest credit on the artists for the taste and beauty displayed in the design.' The scientist went on to name a new species of gnat in honour of 'the genial artist and his wonderful sketches.' A number of landscapes of Ash Island are known, with one illustrated in Popelka (plate 10).

As the majority of Selleny's Novara work is signed and dated, we are able to follow his movements from the information contained therein (Table 1), though it is problematic as to whether the dates given on his various sketches and finished watercolours record the point of initial taking, or final completion.

Illawarra Excursion

Portrait of Illawarra Aboriginal elder 'Tullimbah', taken by Joseph Selleny during his visit to the district in November. Watercolour. Formerly collection Georg Vladar, Canada.

Following the visit to the Hunter River, Selleny had returned to Sydney by 12 August, where he took a number of landscape views and botanical sketches. Having at some point met up with botanist and vigneron Sir William Macarthur of Camden Park, Selleny and a number of the Novara's scientific contingent decided on undertaking an excursion to the Illawarra district, located on the New South Wales coast approximately fifty miles south of Sydney. Illawarra was well known for its picturesque landscape and sub-tropical rainforest, having been visited by scientists and artists such as Augustus Earle and Conrad Martens since the earliest days of white settlement. Macarthur was especially interested in the area's botany, having used Illawarra regularly to acquire plant and wood specimens, as had Robert Brown, Allan Cunningham and Louisa Atkinson since 1804. A brief account of the Illawarra excursion is given in Fletcher (1985) and Scherzer (1861-3, III, 26-39).

It began with a train journey to Campbelltown, then by coach to Camden Park, the Macarthur family residence south west of Sydney, which the party reached on Tuesday 16 November. After sketching there they headed off the following morning towards Wollongong via Appin. On the evening of Wednesday the 17th they put up at Bourke's Hotel there and the following morning completed the final leg of the trip, down the steep, though picturesque escarpment and on to Wollongong. They eventually arrived at the Brighton Hotel, Wollongong Harbour, on the 18th, and here they met up with ethnologist Edward Smith Hill. Selleny and party were in the Illawarra for three days, until Saturday 20 November, during which time they 'secured numerous specimens of value, in the illustration of the various natural sciences' (Illawarra Mercury, 22 November 1858). Selleny was especially busy: of his forty one Australian works identified in Popelka (1964), some twenty two are landscapes connected with this visit or portraits of Illawarra Aborigines. The views were mostly of the Escarpment near Mount Keira (also the site of the Osborne Wallsend coal mine), and Balgownie Farm near Fairy Meadow in the northern part of the district.

Selleny's suite of Illawarra Aboriginal portraits are especially significant. By 1858 there were few Aboriginal people in the immediate vicinity of Sydney who were still living in a manner close to that which predated the arrival of Europeans in 1788 - Scherzer writes of meeting 'Jonny' the last of the Sydney tribe and a small group at Long Bay. However the Novara party was fortunate in finding at Illawarra a group led by the aged warrior Tullimbar, who maintained much of their traditional lifestyle, as evidenced by their body scarification and evidence of tooth evulsion.

On the afternoon of Saturday 20th, Selleny and a section of the party left Illawarra and returned to Sydney via the Broughton Pass, west of Wollongong. A lithograph and large oil of the latter treacherous pass are known. On 23 August Selleny produced a sketch in the garden of William Macleay's Elizabeth Bay House, on Sydney Harbour, and another of Darling Point on 1 December. By this stage the Novara's stay in Sydney was coming to an end. Up to this point the vessel had been in dry dock, and the crew busily engaged in repairing leaks. On 24 November a welcome to the HIMS Novara was given by the German residents of Sydney, with a party on board, whilst on Tuesday 30th Commodore 'Noleur' (as the Sydney newspapers referred to him) and the crew hosted a ball on board for the elite of Sydney.

Over the following few days Selleny completed some of his Australian sketches, and on 3 December produced a number of watercolours of Illawarra Aborigines and a New Zealander who was part of the Illawarra party. The Novara then departed Sydney for Auckland on 7 December, reaching the Barrier Island off New Zealand on the 20th and Cuvier's Island the following day. At this point Selleny completed some further Illawarra Aboriginal portraits, before preparing for the task of documenting the visit to New Zealand and capturing with pencil and brush aspects of the Maori and their culture.

Of his Australian landscapes, the Wollongong City Art Gallery holds two, the National Library of Australia one, and the State Library of New South Wales also possesses a collection of thirteen works by Selleny, of which two are of Australian subjects ('Sir John Mitchell's Pass' and 'Figures and huts in woods. Australia [Native camp, Illawarra]'). A further two Illawarra Aboriginal portraits are known in a private collection in Canada, one of the famous elder Tullimbar and another of the woman Uranga, the latter dated 21 December 1858 and completed by Selleny whilst on board the Novara off the Great Barrier Island, New Zealand. Apart from these original works, a number exist in European collections, while engravings featuring Illawarra and New South Wales landscapes and Aborigines are reproduced in the published accounts of the voyage or other works.


Catalogue of Australian Works

The following listing is taken from Popelka (1964). Height by width in centimetres. Abbreviations used throughout the catalogue are as follows:

ALB - Graphische Sammlung Albertina [Albertina Art Collection], Vienna.

Graz NG - Neue Galerie, Graz.

GM - Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna.

A - Katalog der Kunst-Ausstellung im Kunstlerhaus. Wien, 15 November 1875. [Catalogue of the Kunstlerhaus art exhibition, Vienna, 15 November 1875. Contained 540 of Selleny's works].

NV - Nachlassverzeichnis der Studien Selleny's verfasst im Mai 1876 (Kriegsarchiv, Marinesektion I. Geschäftsgruppe 1882). [List of studies from the estate of J. Selleny, drawn up in May 1876. War Archives Office, Navy Section I, 1882].

ÖGal - Österreichische Galerie. [Austrian Gallery].

P - L. Popelka's 1963-4 biography of J. Selleny.

Pola Bl. -Verzeichnis der 35 Blätter mit 51 Zeichnungen Selleny's von Städten und Landschaften, die 1882 für das k. u. k. Marinemuseum in Pola ausgewahlt wurden, siehe Anhang II. [List of 35 sheets with 51 Selleny drawings of towns and landscapes, selected in 1882 for the Pola Navy Museum. See Popelka, Appendix II]

Pola R. - Verzeichnis der 15 Rahmen mit 43 Studien Selleny's von Volkstypen, dis 1882 fur das k. u. k. Marinemuseum in Pola augewahlt wurden, siehe Anhang II. [List of 15 frames containing 43 ethnic studies, selected for the Pola Navy Museum in 1882. See Popelka, Appendix II].

Schaeffer - August Schaeffer, Kunsthistorische Sammlungen des ah. Kaiserhauses. Fuhrer durch die Gemälde-Galerie, III, Tiel: Gemälde moderner Meister. Aquarelle u. Handzeichnungen, Wien, 1907. [Historical Art Collections of the Kaisers. Guidebook to the Painting Gallery. Volume III: Modern Painting Masters. Watercolour and Drawings, Vienna, 1907].

Wawra - C.J. Wawra, Verzeichnis von J. Selleny Naturstudien auf der Reise um die Erde mit der Fregatte Novara in den Jahren 1857-1859. (LXVIII. Kunst-Auction von C.J. Wawra, freitag, den 29, Februar 1884 im Künstlerhaus), Wien, 1884. [List of Joseph Selleny's Nature Studies from the Voyage Around the World with the Frigate Novara in the years 1857-1959. Art Auction by C.J. Wawra, No.68, Friday, 29 February 1884. Held in Künstlerhaus]

Wurzbach - C. v. Wurzbach, Biographisches Lexicon des Kaiserthumus Österreich, 34. Tiel, Wien, 1877, 58. Article on J. Selleny.



1. Kangaroos, Emus and Cockatoos in the Australian bush

Wood engraving. Frontispiece to Reise (III, 1).

Ash Island, Hunter River

2. Waldpartie am Hunter River (Australien) [Bush on the Hunter River, Australia]

Pencil and watercolour, 34.5 x 50.4cm, Albertina, Vienna, Inv. 28.966. Inscribed 'JS. Hunter River Ash Island. 8 Nov 58.' Ash Island was the A.W. Scott property on the Hunter River. Whilst here Selleny worked with Harriet and Helena Scott on the cover for Australian Lepidoptera (London, 1864). P746. NV786 (given as a wash drawing). KA388. Schaeffer 195 - ALB Inv 28.966.

3. Ash Island am Hunter River [Ash Island on the Hunter River]

Pencil and watercolour. 17.3 x 51.4cm. Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna, Inv. MI 2265. Inscribed 'Ash Island. Hunter River 8 Nov 58.' P747. NV798. KA426. Pola Bl 33 - HGM Inv MI 2265. Illustrated Popelka, colour plate X. Model for the wood engraving 'Farm am Hunter River' in Reise (III, 45).

4. Farm am Hunter River [Farm on the Hunter River]

Wood engraving. Published in Reise (III, 45), after the pencil and watercolour sketch 'Ash Island am Hunter River.'

5. Ash Island. Hunter River

Pencil drawing. 20 x 29cm. P748. NV780. Wawra 624.

6. Ash Island. Wald [Forest, Ash Island]

Wash drawing. 35 x 51cm. Dated '8 November 1858.' P749. NV793. Wawra 633.

7. Ash Island - Cover for Australian Lepidoptera with their transformations

W/C & pencil. 17.3 x 29.2cm. Mitchell Library PXE 78/5. Original drawing for title wrapper of A.W. Scott's Australian Lepidoptera (London, 1864). Title inscribed in centre of drawing.

8. Ash Island - Cover for Australian Lepidoptera with their transformations

Pencil & W/C. 45 x 35.5cm. Mitchell Library PXE 78/6. Original drawing for title wrapper of A.W. Scott's Australian Lepidoptera (London, 1864). Signed and dated l.l 'J Selleny Nov. 58'

9. Ash Island - Cover for Australian Lepidoptera with their transformations

Lithograph. Signed 'J.Selleny Nov. 58' l.r. Published in London, 1864. Mitchell Library PXE 78. 


10. Bei Sydney [At Sydney]

Pencil drawing. 19 x 28.3cm. Dated '12 November 1858.' P750. NV718. KA418. Wawra 577?

11. Bei Sydney [At Sydney]

Pencil drawing. 35 x 51.5cm. Dated '12 November 1858.' P751. NV796. Wawra 636.

 12. Bei Sydney [At Sydney]

Watercolour. 20 x 28.5cm. Dated '15 November 1858.' P752. NV719. KA419. Wawra 581?

13. Strandpromenade in Sydney [Beach promenade at Sydney]

Pencil drawing, in two parts. 20.5 x 55.5cm. Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna, Inv. MI 2264. Inscribed 'JS. Sidney 15 Nov. 858.' P753. NV797. KA425. Pola Bl 33 - HGM Inv MI 2264.

14. Xantharea

Watercolour. 25.3 x 17cm. Dated '16 November 1858.' P754. NV790.

15. Baumskizze [Tree sketch]

28.8 x 20.3cm. Dated '17 November 1858.' P755. NV791. Wawra 617?

16. Domain in Sydney

Wood engraving. Published in Reise (III, 67).

Camden Park and Illawarra

17. Waldpartie in Cambden Park [Forest at Camden Park]

Pencil and colour drawing. 35 x 50.8cm. Albertina, Vienna, Inv. 6565. Inscribed 'J Selleny 17 November 858', '16 Nov 17f', and 'Napern [Nepean].' P757. NV785 - described therein as 'New Zealand forest.' Wawra 628 - ALB Inv. 6565. Model for the wood engraving 'Nepean-River im Cambden Park' in Reise (III, 20). View described in Reise (III, 16f)

18. Nepean River in Cambden Park

Wood engraving. Reise III, 20

19. Bourke's Hotel Appin

Watercolour. 9.5 x 28cm. Dated '17 November 1858.' P756. NV771. KA 412. Wawra 616. Model for the wood engraving 'Purke's Hotel in Appin' in Reise (III, 23). Described in Reise (III, 23).

20. Purkes' Hotel in Appin [The Governor Bourke Hotel at Appin]

Wood engraving. Published in Reise (III, 23). After the watercolour 'Bourke's Hotel Appin' (P756).

21. Australischer Urwald bei Appin [Australian primeval forest near Appin]

Pencil and watercolour. 19.5 x 28cm. Albertina, Vienna, Inv. 28.817. Inscribed 'JS Appin 17 Nov. 58.' P758. NV788. KA427. Schaeffer 179 - ALB Inv 28.817. Model for the wood engraving 'Woods in the vicinity of Appin' in Reise (III, 24).

22. Wald in der Umgebung von Appin [Woods in the vicinity of Appin]

Wood engraving. Published in Reise (III, 24).

23. Woolongong

Wash drawing. 10.3 x 28.5cm. Dated '18 November 1858.' P759. NV768. KA 409. Wawra 614. Compare with P760 (cat 22). Described in Reise (III, 26).

24. Landschaft bei Woolongong [Landscape at Woolongong]

Pencil. 10.5 x 24.5cm. Australian National Library R370. Inscribed 'Wolongang Landschaft Australien.' P760. Not listed in NV, and perhaps modelled after P759 (cat 21). Sold at a London sale of sixty-nine Selleny drawings in 1957, therein titled 'cat no 50. Australia. Landscape at Wolongong'.

25. Keira Mountains. Woolongong

Pencil drawing. 19 x 29cm. Dated '18 November 1858.' P763. NV781. Wawra 623. Possibly the model for the wood engraving 'Keiragebirg bei Wulongong' in Reise (III, 39). Compare with P768.

26. Mount Keira Woolongong

atercolour & pencil on paper. 35.3 x 50.5cm. Wollongong City Gallery 616. Inscribed l.r. 'Mount Keira, Woolongong.' P769. NV742. Wawra 595. View looking east from the edge of the Illawarra Escarpment near Mount Keira. Compare with P763. Provenance: F. Unterricht; Zentralstelle fur Dankmalschuts im Bundesmin [Centre for the Protection of Historical Monuments & Artefacts, German Federal Ministry of Education]; Sothebys, London, May 1981; Erye & Hobson Ltd., London, December 1981.

27. Farm Fairy Meadow bei Woolongong [Farm at Fairy Meadow near Wollongong]

Pencil and colour drawing. 35 x 50.8cm. Albertina, Vienna, Inv. 6564. Inscribed 'Fairy Meadow 18 Nov. 58.' Referred to in Reise (III, 37ff) as Balgonie Farm, the property of a Mr White. P764. NV784 - ALB Inv 6564. Compare with the following work.

28. Farm Fairy Meadow bei Woolongong [Farm at Fairy Meadow near Wollongong]

Pencil and crayon. 35.5 x 51.5cm. Neue Galerie, Graz, Inv. II/2806. Inscribed '19 Nov 58 Fairy Meadow Woolongang.' P765. NV799. KA 420. Wawra 637 - Graz NG Inv II/2806. Model for the wood engraving 'Farm in der Umgebung von Wulongong' in Reise III, 37). Locality described in Reise (III, 37ff).

29. Farm in der Umgebung von Wulongong [Farm in the vicinity of Wollongong]

Wood engraving. 11.2 x 10.7cm. Published in Reise (III, 37) and described therein at III, 37ff. View of Balgonie Farm, Fairy Meadow.

30. Fairy Meadow. Woolongong

Pencil drawing. 51 x 35.5cm. Dated '19 November.' P766. NV800. Wawra 639.

31. Fairy Meadow

Watercolour. 51 x 35cm. Dated '19 November 1858.' P767. NV783.

32. Mount Keira near Waldsen husband coal mine [Mount Keira, near the Osborne Wallsend coal mine]

Watercolour and pencil on paper. 35.3 x 51cm. Wollongong City Gallery 617. Inscribed l.r. 'Australia, M. Keira, near Waldren husbands coal mine 20 Nov.' P768. NV794. Wawra 634. Described in Reise (III, 38). View from Mount Keira, near the Osborne Wallsend Mine, 20 November 1858. Refer Cousins (1948, 165) for an account of this mine, the first to open in Illawarra, during 1849. Provenance: F. Unterricht; Zentralstelle fur Dankmalschuts im Bundesmin [Centre for the Protection of Historical Monuments & Artefacts, German Federal ministry of Education]; Sothebys, London, May 1981; Erye & Hobson Ltd., London, December 1981.

33. Keiragebirg bei Wulongong [Keira escarpment near Wollongong]

Wood engraving. 14.2 x 10.8cm. Published in Reise (III, 39). Based on the pencil and watercolour sketch 'Mount Keira near Waldsen husband coal mine' (cat 30).

34. Eucalyptus Forest in South Australia (From the account of the "Novara") [Keira escarpment near Wollongong, with Aborigines]

Wood engraving. 14.7 x 12.5cm. Published in A.J. Butler, The History of Mankind, Macmillan, New York, 1896, vol.1, p.334. This is an English translation from the original German edition of Prof. Friedrich Ratzel, Völkerkunde, 1885-8. The image is a variant of Selleny's engraving 'Keira escarpment near Wollongong' - it is here reversed, and includes Aboriginal figures and a gunyah in the right foreground, replacing the original European tree-fellers. The engraving has been incorrectly titled in the Butler publication.

35. Bargo

Pencil drawing. 35 x 51cm. Dated '21 November 1858.' P770. NV801. Wawra 638. Model for the wood engraving entitled 'Bargo' in Reise (III, 41). Described at Reise (III, 25), and elsewhere referred to as 'Brogo'. Sold at Sothebys, London, May 1981.

36. Bargo

Wood engraving. Published in Reise (III, 41).  

37. Sir Thomas Mitchell's Pass [Broughton Pass]

Pencil and colour drawing. 35 x 51cm. . Österreichische Galerie, Vienna, Inv. 3592. Dated '21 November 1858.' P771. NV787. Wawra 629. Model for the lithograph 'Broughton's oder Sir Thom. Mitchell's Pass in Neu-Süd-Wales.' in Reise (III, facing 26). Described in Reise (III, 25).

38. Australischer Wald. Sir John Mitchell's Pass [Australian forest. Sir John Mitchell's Pass]

Charcoal and coloured pencil on paper on linen. 122 x 190cm. Österreichische Galerie, Vienna, Inv. 3592. P771a. Wurzbach S62. KA 540. Schaeffer 232 - ÖGal Inv 3592.

39. Sir John Mitchell's Pass [Broughton Pass]

Pencil. 24.5 x 33cm. DG*D6, State Library of New South Wales. Purchased from a London sale of sixty-nine Selleny drawings in 1957.

40. Broughton's oder Sir Thom. Mitchell's Pass in Neu-Süd-Wales [Broughton's or Sir Thomas Mitchell's Pass in New South Wales]

Tinted lithograph. Published in Reise (III, facing 26). View described in Reise (III, 25).


41. Ficus farraginea (Macleays Garden)

Pencil and colour drawing. 35.3 x 51cm. Dated '23 November 1858.' P772. NV795. KA 445. Wawra 635? Model for the wood engraving 'Ficus im Garten des Hern Macleay in Elisabeth-Bai' in Reise (III, 12). Described in Reise (III, 13).

42. Ficus im Garten des Hern Macleay in Elisabeth-Bai [Ficus in the Garden of Mr Macleay at Elizabeth Bay]

Wood engraving. Published in Reise (III, 12).

43. Darling Point in Sydney

Pencil drawing, on joined paper. 35 x 83cm. Albertina, Vienna, Inv. 6563. Inscribed '1 Decemb. Darling Point. Sidney.' P773. NV740. Wawra 593 - ALB Inv 6563.

44. Vegetationsgruppe. Sidney [Vegetation group, Sydney]

Watercolour. 25.5 x 17cm. Dated '21 Dezember 1858.' P774. NV774. Wawra 615?

45. Dracena nutans. Sidney

Watercolour. 25.5 x 17cm. Dated '3 Dezember 1858.' P782. NV772. Wawra 613.

46. Eucalyptus

Watercolour. 25.5 x 17cm. Dated '3 Dezember 1858.' P783. NV773.

47. Aureacaria Cooki et excallans

Pencil drawing. 25.5 x 17cm. Dated '3 Dezember 1858.' P784. NV775.

48. Governors house. Denisons place [Government House. Sir William Denison's residence]

Watercolour. 10.5 x 28.5cm. Inscribed 'Wohnsitz des Gouverneurs (Governments House) in Sydney.' P785. NV782. Model for the wood engraving in Reise (III, 5) entitled 'Wohnsitz Gouverneurs (Governments House) in Sydney.' The Governor at the time was Sir William Denison. Refer Denison (1870).

49. Australischer Urwald [Australian landscape]

Oil on canvas. 118 x 157 cm.Signed and dated 'J. Selleny 1867'. Natural History Museum, Vienna. Illustrated Der Freie Weite Horizont - Der Weltumseglung de Novara und Maximiliams Mexicanisher Traum, Landsmuseum Schloss Tirol, July-November 2004, p.334, colour.

50. Australischer Wald. Character des Illawarra Gebietes [Australian bush in the Illawarra district]

Oil on canvas. 64.7 x 97 cm. Signed and dated 'J. Selleny 1864' lower left. Inscribed with title on a label on the reverse. Offered for sale £40-60,000 at Christies, London, 23 September 2011. Illustrated.

'Portraits of Nations'Joseph Selleny's artistic output whilst attached to the Novara expedition can be roughly divided into three groups - (1) landscapes, (2) scientific drawings, and (3) portraits, the latter consisting of ethnographic studies taken at the behest of ethnologist and linguist Karl Scherzer. Lisolette Popelka, in her 1963 book on the artist, says the following in regards to these figurative pieces:

Portraits of Nations

Selleny painted and sketched not only the natural sights of foreign parts, but most of all took portraits of their inhabitants. A considerable amount of figure studies has come down to us and an even greater number were listed after his death in that part of his estate which was auctioned off in 1884 (Wawra 1884). Those two sources would indicate that Selleny devoted himself to more than 280 sheets depicting foreign nations.Among those to be singled out by their style, technique and size, but also by their sheer number, is a group of 124 which can best be classified as 'Portraits of Nations'. On average they measure 30-35 cm in height and 12-20 cm in width; a number of them are on grey paper. Their subjects consist predominately of single figures, mostly standing, frontal views or straight back-views, with some done in 3/4 profile. They mostly appear without backgrounds, and even in those with seated figures the furniture bearing them recedes totally, as for example in the portrait of a sitting Chinese woman (no. 644) or men from Tahiti (nos. 889, 897). This spatial isolation of the figures is enforced by the technique used: the fleeting, only sparsely coloured pencil drawing which Selleny usually favoured is replaced by a fully developed, strongly coloured watercolour style with the artist drawing certain portions directly by his brush.The second big group of studies, on average measuring 18 to 20 cm and featuring a number of figures, acknowledge the need for compact representation - one lot is governed by the spontaneity of the occasion, the other by lasting tradition. The goal was to show the individual subject in his/her role as representative of a special ethnic group, through build, dress and demeanour.The distribution of these 'Portraits of Nations' during the various stays during the voyage is interesting. Emphasis by numbers catalogued is distributed between India (21), Tahiti (20), Java (19), China (12), Manila (10), New Zealand (9), the Nicobares (8); whilst a smaller number were done in the Stewart Atolls and Australia (6 each), as well as Capeland (5), Ceylon (3), Singapore and Caroline Islands (2 each) and Gibraltar with only one of the many-figured sheets. These numbers gain importance when we take regard to the time at the artist's disposal in each location. Selleny devoted a considerable portion of his working-hours on these portraits, remarkable when one realizes the short time he had for them in conjunction with other tasks - of the fifteen sketches done during the four hour stay at the Stewart's Atolls (nos. 731-745), six were executed as large seize 'Portrait of Nations' and during the less than five hours left for the island Ponape, the artist managed, besides charming landscape renditions and figure studies (compare No 733) to also take the portraits of two natives in the already described manner (nos. 726, 727).The creation of these 'Portraits of Nations', as well as the profiles, the large topographical renditions, and other views, were to be of an official nature. It was the anthropological/ethnographical purpose of this expedition which Selleny was to serve with these 'portraits of significant personages', in direct collaboration with the scientists researching natural phenomena. This comes especially into fore with the portraits of Australian Aborigines - altogether ten of Selleny's studies of these have come down to us, fixing in time Scherzer's impressions upon twice meeting these indigenous inhabitants, [supposedly] doomed to extinction.Visiting the Illawarra district the expeditionary members saw 4 men, 2 women and 2 children, "well-formed physiognomies, partly of black, partly of leather-brown skin tones with very broad noses and black crankily, but by no means woolly hair. One native woman held a child in her arms" (no. 775, see also Scherzer III, 27). In another camp they ran across 3 men and 3 women, among which was one half-caste with 2 mixed blood children. "Among these aborigines we met very characteristic racial types which induced us to take some anthropometric measurements, while the artist was able to utilize the persons, reposing for the measuring procedure, for his pictorial depiction."The Aborigine with the boomerang (no 778) depicted thus by Selleny, conforms with Scherzer's description of their species: "the skull is .... rather regular, with a high and broad forehead, a high bridged nose, dark and glistening eyes, very prominent deep sockets, strongly marked creases emanating from nose and cheek; the mouth broad as a rule, protruding overlapping upper-lip, the upper row of teeth covers the lower one - face and the whole of the body usually very hirsute - the hair of the head is black, often very fine and lightly crinkled, without being woolly. The skin tone on average is dirty-brown or brownish black ...... the older population has their noses pierced, carrying kangaroo-bones or other amulets made of wood or bone right through them" (Scherzer 111, 71).Looking at the man with the boomerang one has the distinct impression that the painter had each one of these anthropologically important details pointed out by the natural scientists since they are so well delineated - the pierced septum of the nose is once again detailed in pencil next to the head.


Karl Scherzer was then engaged in the scientific study of human cranium - popularly known as phrenology - and published a text on this topic whilst in Sydney.

Australian Aborigines

Selleny's portraits of Australian Aborigines were based largely on those sketches taken at Illawarra during his visit there between 18-20 November 1858, though he is also known to have observed some Aboriginal people in the vicinity of Sydney, specifically at the Long Bay camp whilst member of a party led by Karl Scherzer and Edward Smith Hill which was carrying out ethnological and craniological investigations. Following the Illawarra expedition Selleny worked his various sketches up in Sydney on 3 December, and later whilst anchored off Cuvier's Island, New Zealand, on 21 December, prior to landing. This known suite of Australian works consists of a number of individual portraits, plus a view of a native encampment, most likely near Wollongong. The Illawarra Aborigines depicted were part of the tribal group of the elder Tullimbar, and comprised: Tullimbah, aged 60 years; an elderly Aboriginal woman; Barungalung, a male aged 35 years; his wife Woorangah and her baby; their daughter Mewungah / Magha; and a young Maori man who was living with the group. The encounter with these people is described in Scherzer's various publications and diaries.

A1. Urbewohner Australiens [Australian Native Inhabitants]

Wood engraving. Published in Reise (III, 33). Comprises a grouping of five figures, consisting of (i) Woorangah, an Aboriginal woman and her child, (ii) Tullimbah, an elderly Aboriginal man, (iii) a New Zealand Maori man dressed in a skirt, (iv) Barungalung, an Aboriginal man holding a boomerang, and (iv) Mewungah, a young Aboriginal girl dressed in a skirt. Each individual as portrayed is based on a separate work described elsewhere in this listing.

A2. Eingeborene lagernd (Illawarra) [Native camp, Illawarra]

Pencil on paper. 12.5 x 17.5cm. DG*D6, State Library of New South Wales. Dated '18 November 1858.' P762. NV754. KA439. View of a native encampment in the Illawarra district with seven figures and two gunyahs. The was the work 'Figures and huts in wood. Australia' sold at a London sale of sixty-nine Selleny drawings in 1957 (cat. no. 52 therein) and acquired by the Dixson Gallery. Refer Mitchell Library PXn533.

A3. Australische Eingeborene [Australian Aborigine - Woman of Wollongong]

Watercolour, on joined paper. 33.7 x 15.9cm. ÖGal Inv. 2266a. Inscribed 'Woolongong JS Sidney 3 Dec 58.' P776. NV808 ('Woman of Woolongong', with a misread date of 31 December 1858). KA 415. Schaeffer 221 - ÖGal Inv 2266a. Most likely a portrait of Woorangah. Model for a section of the wood engraving entitled 'Urbewohner Australiens' in Reise (III, 33). Finished watercolour of a drawing originally taken at Wollongong during the period 18-21 November.

A4. Ein Weib auf Australien [An Australian Woman]

Watercolour. 15 x 3.8cm. Dated '3 Dezember 1858.' P779. NV756. KA 441. Wawra 579? Possibly a variation of cat. 43 above.

A5. Mutter mit ihrem Kinde (Wollongong) [Mother with her child, Wollongong]

Watercolour on beige paper. 32.3 x 23cm. Private collection, Canada. Inscribed 'JS Wulongong. 21 Dec. 85 Huranga.' P775. NV803. KA 449. Pola R 12. Portrait of an Aboriginal mother and child sitting, draped in a white rug. Incorporated into engraving in Reise (III, 33) entitled 'Urbewohner Australiens.'

A6. Australisches Eingeborenenmädchen [Magha - Australian Aboriginal Girl]

Watercolour. 33.7 x 15.9cm. Österreichische Galerie, Vienna, Inv. 2266c. Inscribed 'Magha' and 'Wüllongong 3 Dec 58.' Elsewhere called 'Mewungah' by Scherzer. P777. NV810. KA 417. Schaeffer 219 - ÖGal Inv 2266c. See also watercolour copy at K30.

A7. Australier mit Bumerang [Barungalung - Australian with Boomerang]

Watercolour. 34 x 17.5cm. Österreichische Galerie, Vienna, Inv. 2266b. Inscribed 'Illawarra Australien JS.' Portrait of Barungalung. P778. NV809. KA 416. Schaeffer 220 - ÖGal Inv 2266b. Incorporated into the wood engraving in Reise (III, 33) entitled 'Urbewohner Australiens.' See also Reise (III, 27ff and 70f).

A8. Männliche Volkstype (Woolongong) [Thullinbah - Male ethnic type, Wollongong]

Watercolour on beige paper. 35 x 21.5cm. Private collection, Canada. Inscribed 'Thullinbah. J Selleny Wullongong.' P781. NV804. Pola R.12. Incorporated into engraving in Reise (III, 33), entitled 'Urbewohner Australiens'. Tullimbar was one of the elders of the Illawarra Aboriginal people, known to the white people as 'King of Tongarra'. He resided in the Macquarie Pass / Albion Park area. There is now a town in this locality named after him. Refer appendix below for further biographical details. He was born in about 1798.

A9. Neuseeländer (Illawarra) [New Zealander at Illawarra]

Watercolour. 25.5 x 13cm. Dated '18 November 1858.' P761. NV750. KA 435. Wawra 604? Popelka suggests that it is possible that this is not a New Zealander, but an Australian Aborigine from the Illawarra district south of Sydney, however the subject was most likely a New Zealand Maori living with the tribe of Tullimbar at Illawarra. Compare with the wood engraving in Reise (III, 33) entitled 'Urbewohner Australiens.'

A10. Neuseeländer [New Zealander]

Watercolour. 32.5 x 14.5cm. Dated '3 Dezember 1858.' P780. NV752. KA 437. Wawra 605? See also P761 above for a variant.


Copies after Selleny by Alexander von Eberan - comprising 38 watercolours (36.2 x 26.2 cm) at the Kriegsarchiv, altes Marinearchiv, MC29. Listed Popelka (185-8).

AA1. Australier [Australian Aborigine - Tullimbah]

Watercolour. 36.2 x 26.2cm. Sheet 34. Chest and face portrait. Inscribed 'Tullinbach (Australien)'. Copy of cat. no. A8 above.

AA2. Australisches Eingeborenenmädchen [Australian Aboriginal Girl - Magha]

Watercolour. 36.2 x 26.2cm. Sheet 35. Full figure portrait, facing 3/4 to the right. Inscribed 'Magha Australien'. Copy of P777.

Appendix 1

Joseph Selleny album of drawings in the Mitchell Library collection

This album was formerly part of the Dixson Gallery collection - catalogue number DG*D6. It was purchased in 1957 and contains the following pencil and wash sketches:

1. Naturalists Cabin on board Novara

2. New Zealand Mangatawhivi warrior

3. New Zealand Mangatawhivi woman and child

4. Native huts on Stewart Island

5.. Sir John Mitchell's Pass

6. Figures and huts in wood, Australia

7. Group of natives, Stewart Island, New Zealand

8. Native woman of Puynipet

9. Native of Puynipet

10. American mission house, Puynipet, Caroline Islands

11. Queen Pomare of Tahiti

12. Queen Pomare's house at Papeete

13. The frigate Novara and the corvette Carolina


In compiling this piece, I wish to acknowledge the pioneering work on Selleny in Australia by the late John E. Fletcher, and and invaluable assistance of the late Georg Vladar of Kingston, Canada, for the provision of references and translation of material on this topic. Also to Ken Orchard, Faculty of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong, for his assistance. 

Index | Ship History | Scherzer Diary | Expedition Narrative | Sydney | Selleny | Bibliography | Novara Expedition
Hochstetter I | Blanche Mitchell Diary | Minnie Mann Diary | Hochstetter II | FitzRoy Dock | Scherzer in Sydney
Frauenfeld Diary | Incident at Sikyana | Sydney Chronology | Appendicies
| Lissa 1866 | Ferdinand Maximillian

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