Joseph J. MERRETTWilliam NICHOLASW. M. BROWNRIGGWilliam FORD, The Warrior Chieftains of New Zealand Enlarge 1 /1


1816 – 1854

print after


England 1807 – Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 1854


  • Australia from 1836


printer, lithographic

William FORD

England 1823 – St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1884


  • Australia from 1873

The Warrior Chieftains of New Zealand 1846 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: prints, lithograph, printed in black ink, from one stone; hand-coloured with watercolour Support: medium-weight smooth cream wove paper
Manufacturer's Mark: no manufacturer's mark.
Edition State: published state
Impression: undesignated impression
Edition: print run unknown

Primary Insc: no inscriptions.
Secondary Insc: no inscriptions.
Tertiary Insc: Inscribed verso lower right in black pencil, '9721'.
Dimensions: printed image 38.9 h x 31.7 w cm sheet (irregular) 50.9 h x 36.5 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2014
Accession No: NGA 2014.2421
  • Purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, from the auction 'Travel, Science and Natural History'. London: Christie's South Kensington, 8 October 2014, lot 130, illustrated in colour.

The lithograph The warrior chieftains of New Zealand is a full-length portrait of Maori chieftain Hone Heke, his wife Hariata and the old chief Kawiti. The two men are in Maori clothing, while Hariata is in European attire. The young Heke holds a musket, while the older Kawiti holds a taiaha, a traditional staff weapon. The image is a sympathetic observation of a younger generation of Maori people in the mid nineteenth century who were adopting European conventions, including clothing and weapons.

The history of Maori people in colonial Australia is yet to be written. But, as early as 1808, a party of Maori men, including a Te Pahi, a senior chief, had visited Sydney, where they were guests of Governor Philip Gidley King for seven weeks. Such connections with Aotearoa New Zealand and its people were important for the fledgling colony. Keith Vincent Smith, in his recent book Mari nawi, discusses the interaction of Aboriginal Australians and Maori in the context of shipping. Such close links were formalised in 1839 when Governor of New South Wales George Gipps’s jurisdiction was expanded to include New Zealand. The National Gallery of Australia has a number of works in its collection relating to Maori in Australia. The Gallery was recently given the Wesleyan Missionary Society manuscript of 1821, which includes a depiction of a Maori man. Another work acquired in recent years is the 1846 oil painting by William Duke of the Maori political prisoner Hohepa Te Umuroa.

The warrior chieftains of New Zealand is also from 1846. The image was made by Joseph Jenner Merrett (1816–1854), a fluent Maori speaker and amateur artist, who after living in Aotearoa New Zealand for some years, toured New South Wales in 1846, giving lectures on the Maori people and selling impressions of this lithograph. The work, one of the largest lithographs produced in Australia to that time, was a totally colonial production. Merrett’s image was drawn onto the lithographic stone by the well-known portrait artist William Nicholas (1807–1854), printed by local land surveyor William Meadows Brownrigg and published by stationer and music seller William Ford. The warrior chieftains of New Zealand is a testimony to the capacity of Sydney artisans to collaborate on an exceptional work.

Roger Butler, Senior Curator of Australian Prints and Drawings

in artonview, issue 81, Autumn 2015