DE SAINSON, Louis Auguste;

Natai, One of the Chiefs of Bream Bay

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Lithograph on paper
471 x 339mm

Original title: ‘Nataï, l’un des Chefs de la baie Bream (Nouvelle Zélande)’. Lithographed by Antoine Maurin. Plate No. 63 from Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont d’Urville, Voyage de la corvette l’Astrolabe exécuté pendant les années 1826–1827–1828–1829 (Paris: J. Tastu, 1833). Other lithographs from the series can be viewed here.


The following text comes from the catalogue for the exhibition Tirohanga Whānui.

Little is known of the chief Natai other than the fact that he came on board the Astrolabe with the chief Rangituke. D’Urville wrote of this meeting near Whāngarei Heads that ‘one of his lieutenants, named Natai, decorated with regular tattooage, attracted our attention. The facile pencil of M. de Sainson has reproduced with fidelity the features and moko of this New Zealand warrior.’

This striking portrait in profile shows that the lithographer has indeed taken some pains to reproduce de Sainson’s version of the subject’s moko. However, the pronounced aquilinity of the nose and treatment of the mouth indicate an artistic attempt to Europeanise the face. The hair in short curls, accords more with Parisian fashion of the time for wig-less, Greco-Roman hairstyles rather than the long, tied method adopted by most Māori males.

Of Natai’s companion Rangituke, d’Urville wrote that ‘although he concealed part of the truth, I suspected very quickly that he was at this time engaged in some military expedition against the people of Shouraki (Hauraki) Bay.’

D’Urville was right. Rangituke and Natai were probably part of some kind of advance guard leading up to a more significant attack in the future. In June 1828, on his second attempt to obtain utu for the death of Pōmare two years earlier at Te Rore, near Pirongia, Rangi-tuke was fatally speared in the eye in a clash with Ngāti Tipa at the mouth of the Tāmaki River. Most of his taua (war party) died with him.

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Exhibition History

Tirohanga Whānui: Views from the Past, Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi, 15 April to 15 September 2017