Natural history

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"Fish of Rio de Janeiro"

Artist: Raper, George
Created: [1789]
Dimensions: 32.4 x 48.8 cm
Reference: Raper Drawing - no. 35


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Drawing of a fish in left profile, with shading in black wash below and an otherwise plain background. The fish has an elongated fusiform body shape, with enlarged, fan-like pectoral fins. It is coloured grey above fading to white below, spotted all over with brown, and on the pectoral fins with blue also. The body is overlaid with the outline of scales in grey. The eye includes a ring of what appears to be gold paint. The drawing is framed with a thick black ink line and a triple-banded border, the central band of which contains the title, signature and date. Most of the outer band appears to have been lost through the drawing having been cropped.


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  • George Raper]
  • The drawing is inscribed in black ink at bottom "FISH of RIO de JANEIRO Natural Size ~ GEO: RapeR ~# 1789.".
  • The drawing is signed "GEO: RapeR" and dated 1789.
  • The drawing is inscribed in pencil at bottom left with the number "35", at top right "34", and on the reverse "43".
  • The fish was identified by Whitley (1938) as a Flying Gurnard.
  • John White, surgeon general to the colony, describes seeing flying fish as the First Fleet approached Rio de Janeiro on July 26th 1787 (A.H. Chisholm (ed), Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales by John White. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1962, pp.68-9.)
  • John Calaby notes the similarity of the drawing to one in the sketchbook by John Hunter in the National Library of Australia, Canberra. He identifies the fish as the Atlantic Flying Gurnard Dactylopterus volitans. (Calaby, John (ed). The Hunter Sketchbook. Melbourne, National Library of Australia, 1989 p. 178.)
  • The author of this catalogue record is Suzanne Stenning.
  • By permission of the trustees of the Natural History Museum (London).
  • Two sets of transparencies held in the Natural History Museum (London) Zoology Library and Picture Library: Picture Library order number 15135
  • Miss Eva Godman donated 1962
  • Data sheet available.
  • Whitley, G.P. 'Naturalists of the First Fleet', The Australian Museum Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 9, 1938 (pp.291-304).
  • Hindwood, K.A. 'George Raper: an Artist of the First Fleet', Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 50, Pt. 1, 1964 pp.32-57.