A bay on the south coast of New Holland, January 1802

This is one of the ten paintings by Westall of Matthew Flinders' Australian voyage (1801-03) that the Admiralty purchased from him, most commissioned from 1809 (ZBA7914, 7935-7936, 7938-7944): they were completed over the next three years.

The view is from a high point down into a deep Australian bay and islands in the distance, with a ship (presumably the 'Investigator') shown small in its upper end, under way and with a boat towing astern. A yellow and brown snake is shown in the foreground behind cactus and scrub plants of which the closely observed detail emphasises the deep recession of sky and sea behind. While the location remains to be clarified, the following passage for Sunday 21 February 1802 appears in Flinders' 'Voyage to Terra Australis' (vol. 1), written about what he called Thistle Island, Sleaford Bay, near Port Lincoln: ‘In our way up the hills, to take a commanding station for the survey, a speckled, yellow snake lay asleep before us. By pressing the butt-end of a musket upon his neck I kept him down whilst Mr. Thistle ['Investigator's master], with a sail needle and twine, sewed up his mouth; and he was taken on board alive for the naturalist to examine; but two others of the same species had already been killed, and one of them was seven feet nine inches in length.’ Thistle and seven others shortly afterwards drowned near Port Lincoln when the ship's cutter was overset in strong tidal currents.

This is not one of the eight paintings from the Admiralty set engraved in Flinders's voyage account. For other notes on the group see ZBA7914.

Object Details

ID: ZBA7939
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Westall, William
Vessels: Investigator (1795)
Date made: 1809-12 (?); 1809-1812
People: HM Admiralty; Ministry of Defence Art Collection
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Frame: 804 mm x 1066 mm x 105 mm;Painting: 617 mm x 871 mm

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