Joy of Museums

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National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia - Joy of Museums - Bedgi-Bedgi

This is a colour print of a half-figure portrait of Bedgi-Bedgi (c.1789-c.1837), a young Aboriginal man, drawn in 1802. Bedgi-Bedgi is shown with a pattern of scars on his body and is wearing a long necklace wrapped around his neck. The body scars were formed by deliberately. Both Tasmanian and mainland Indigenous peoples made cuts on their skin, usually with broken pieces of shell, that were purposely kept open until flesh grew up between the two sides, then skinned over, leaving the raised scars. The scars were made in patterns on the chest, back, arms and shoulders.

Bedgi-Bedgi was a leader of the Burramattagal clan of the Dharug people. He joined a number of sealing and whaling voyages to Bass Strait in the early 1800s. He also acted as a tracker in an 1816 expedition aimed as suppressing aboriginal attacks against settlers in north west Sydney. In 1816, Governor Macquarie granted him a king-plate declaring him ‘chief of the Kissing Point tribe’,

This engraving was published in France in 1824 is the second edition of ‘Voyage de decouvertes aux Terres Australes (Atlas)’ or ‘Voyage of discovery to the Austral Lands (Atlas)’. Drawn by Nicolas-Martin Petit (1777-1804), who had trained in the school of the French neoclassical painter Louis David (1748-1825). Petit concentrated on portraits and landscapes, during the 1800 to 1804 French expedition to Australia led by Nicolas Baudin (1754-1803).  The expedition set out with two ships in 1800, it was largest scientific team to leave Europe for the Pacific at that time and it contributed significantly to knowledge of Australia’s Indigenous peoples, geography, and flora and fauna.

Among the many historical portraits in the National Portrait Gallery the following are highlights:


Essential Facts:

  • Title:               Bedgi-Bedgi
  • Artist:             Nicolas-Martin Petit
  • Year:               1824
  • Medium:         Hand-coloured engraving
  • Dimensions:   35.1 × 27.1 cm (sheet)
  • Museum:         National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia


” Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.” Australian Proverb



Photo Credits: 1) By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 2)