Boyd incident drawing

This imaginative reconstruction of the capture of the ship Boyd in Whangaroa Harbour was painted some 30 years after the event by the French artist Louis Auguste Sainson. Work like this and the more famous 1908 oil painting by Walter Wright (Auckland Art Gallery) helped promote the notion of New Zealand as the ‘Cannibal Isles’ and highlight the interpretation of this event as the Boyd Massacre. The work of Wright has subsequently been dismissed as ‘documentary racism’.

In Sainson’s work two canoes can be seen in the harbour while close to the shore a European woman stands in a vessel resembling a rowboat. Several dead sailors lie in the foreground and people are swarming up the rigging of the ship.


Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: PUBL-0034-2-390
Russell Duncan Album.
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa must be obtained before any reuse of this image.

How to cite this page: 'Boyd incident drawing', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Jul-2013

Community contributions

Tony White
12 Aug 2009
Have a piece of the original ship with several carvings and the history of the event very good quality

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