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Rare Tasmanian Aboriginal portraits on show

TWO highly significant sketches of Tasmanian Aboriginal men from around 1800 are now on display at the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts in Hobart.

The sketches were purchased at auction by Libraries Tasmania through the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts Bequest Fund.

They reveal unique insights into Tasmanian Aboriginal culture prior to the arrival of Europeans.

The portraits are from a collection of previously unknown works that were recently unearthed from a private French collection.

Allport Library and Museum of the Art curator Caitlin Sutton said she was “thrilled” with the new acquisitions.

“We are honoured to be able to bring these works back to Tasmania where they were originally created,” she said.

“It is so rare for completely unknown sketches as early as this to appear on the market.

“They represent a comparatively peaceful encounter between the French artist Nicholas-Martin Petit and two Tasmanian Aboriginal men in 1802.

“As part of our collection they have been catalogued and digitised at high resolution and will continue to be available to researchers into the future.”

The rare portraits were unveiled on 16 May by Minister for the Arts Elise Archer.

“These portraits are of immense cultural significance to Tasmania, and have led to considerable local and national interest,” Ms Archer said.

“The drawings, by artist Nicholas-Martin Petit (1777-1804), have been heralded as some of the most sensitive and important depictions of Tasmanian Aboriginal people from this time.”

Caption: From left, Todd Schulthorpe (Inclusive Curriculum, Aboriginal Education Services, Department of Education), Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts curator Caitlin Sutton, Minister for the Arts Elise Archer, Tasmanian Library Advisory Board chair Mary Bent and Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts chair Tim Bugg.