- Museum number
Drawing; watercolour, from a collection of nineteen Thomas Bock portraits of Tasmanian Aboriginal people held by the British Museum. It depicts an unknown youth or man, sitting on the ground sharpening a spear.
- Production date
Height: 20.30 centimetres
Width: 22.40 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Historian Cassandra Pybus, in discussion 17/5/2019, suggests this image depicts the Aboriginal boy 'Richard', who was with Robinson from 1831. He was a boy who was living with settlers and had no clan identification. She comments that Robinson would not want a portrait of any of his convict servants drawn as he despised them. The head is much more finished than the body. There are marks indicating foliage drawn in pencil on the right hand side.
"11. Fine coloured drawing of a Tasmanian [male symbol], seated, pointing a spear. By Bock. Not ochred." From MS145 J B Davis 'Catalogue of Drawings, Paintings & other objects of an Ethnological Nature', Royal Anthropological Institute Archive.
In 1965 NJB Plomley published a paper which attempted to untangle the complex provenance of the different collections of Thomas Bock’s (1790-1855) portraits of Tasmanian Aboriginal people, including those held by the British Museum. The British Museum’s seventeen Bock portraits were acquired from Dr J Barnard Davis’ collection in 1883. Plomley (1965:15) argued that Davis acquired this set of portraits before 1867 from Thomas Bock’s son, Alfred Bock (1835-1920), and that they are copies of Thomas Bock’s work, executed by Alfred. However, based on a close study of the surviving documentation and its relationship to the inscriptions on many of the British Museum’s Bock portraits, it is clear that the British Museum’s collection of Bock portraits derive from a larger assemblage of prints, paintings and ethnographic objects collected by Robinson before his return to England in 1852, and which Barnard Davis purchased from GA Robinson’s widow in 1867. Davis’ descriptions of this material clearly identify the works as having been executed by Thomas Bock.
The production date is based on Plomley (1991:35).
Plomley (1965:14) notes of this image (Unknown D) Plate 9, notes, amongst other things: 'Thomas Bock's original pencil drawing for this portrait, which is now in the Queen Victoria Museum, shows two poses of the legs; and has two marginal sketches of natives in European dress'.
Plomley (1991:35) refers to this portrait as Unknown D and suggests that 'although he is scraping a spear point in the manner of the Tasmanians, has none of the appearance of an Aboriginal. Rather he has the features of a negro or Pacific Islander, and it is therefore suggested he may have been Joseph Maclaine, who was a convict servant accompanying G.A. Robinson on his expeditions from January 1830 until at least November 1832. He is sometimes referred to as a native of Owyhee (Hawaiian Islands), or Black Joe (Friendly Mission, p.1037)'.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2017-2018 06 Dec– 11 Mar, Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, Thomas Bock
2018 17 Aug- 09 Nov, Hobart, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Thomas Bock
- Window mounted, in good condition.
- Acquisition notes
- This was probably part of the collection of artworks and ethnographic objects which Joseph Barnard Davis (q.v.) acquired from Robinson's widow in the 1860s, and which AW Franks (q.v.) later purchased for the British Museum at the auction sale of Davis's estate in 1883.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 11 (Davis Catalogue MS 145 RAI 1867)
Miscellaneous number: Oc2006-Drg67-Boc