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This exquisite portrait of a young man at Parramatta named Toulgra (also known as Bull Dog) was drawn by Nicolas-Martin Petit, an artist on French explorer Nicolas Baudin’s expedition to Australia. Petit produced a series of portraits of Eora people in Sydney during a lengthy layover at Port Jackson between 20 June and 18 November 1802. Toulgra’s portrait was recently acquired by the Library.
Aged about 15 at the time, Toulgra would have been born around the time of the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. He was the son of Bennelong’s sister Worogan and Yerinibe of the Burramattagal (Parramatta). Three other young men drawn by Petit — Musquito, Gnung-a Gnung-a and Bidgee Bidgee — were also related to Bennelong, who was living nearby.
Detailed portraits of named Aboriginal people in Sydney from this time are very rare, and Petit’s are among the most lifelike. This drawing is remarkable for its attention to detail and for the added description of its subject.
Toulgra is an important historical figure for the Eora people of Sydney. Three years after the drawing was made, in 1805, he was exiled to Norfolk Island for seven years. One of the first Aboriginal ‘convicts’ to leave the Australian mainland, he and another Eora man, Musquito, had been charged with participating in ongoing raids and arson attacks in retaliation against white settlement along the Hawkesbury and Parramatta rivers.
Musquito was later sent to Tasmania and eventually led many attacks against white settlers. He was hanged in 1825. Unfortunately, nothing is known of Toulgra after his time on Norfolk Island.
This portrait of Toulgra is one of nine portraits of Aboriginal people from New South Wales, engraved from drawings by Petit and published in 1824 in the second edition of the official account of the Baudin voyage. The book incorrectly identifies Toulgra as Ouro-Mare. Petit’s three other drawings of Toulgra are held in the Le Havre Natural History Museum in France.
Ronald Briggs, Curator, Research & Discovery
This article first appeared in SL magazine winter 2018