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Document Number: AJ-087
Author: Choris, Louis, 1795-1828
Title: Voyage pittoresque autour du monde [illustrations--excerpt]
Source: Choris, Louis. Voyage pittoresque autour du monde, avec des portraits de sauvages d'Amérique, d'Asie, d'Afrique, et des îles du Grand Océan; des paysages, des vues maritimes, et plusieurs objets d'histoire naturelle; accompagné de descriptions par m. le Baron Cuvier, et m. A. de Chamisso, et d'observations sur les crânes humains, par m. le Docteur Gall. Par m. Louis Choris, peintre. (Paris: De l'Imprimerie de Firmin Didot, 1822). Plates I - XIV, pages 1-10, pages 1-3 (California); plates I-XIX, pages 1-24 (Hawaii); plates I-XXIII, pages 1-28 (Alaska).
Pages/Illustrations: 124 / 58
Citable URL:

Author Note

Louis (or Ludovik/Ludwig) Choris (1795-1828) was a young Ukrainian artist living in St. Petersburg, Russia, when in 1815 he was chosen for a voyage headed by Captain Otto von Kotzebue. As a teenager Choris had served as the botanical artist on a Russian scientific expedition to the Caucasus Mountains, and his reputation was on the rise in Moscow artistic circles.

The purpose of the Kotzebue voyage was to search the Alaskan coast for a northeast passage through the Bering Strait, so the Russians could supply their trading posts between California and Alaska without having to sail all the way around Cape Horn. The ship Rurik carried only twenty-seven people, including Captain Kotzebue, scientist Adelbert von Chamisso, and artist Choris.

Choris went on to pursue a successful art career in the years that followed, bringing out a second collection of lithographs in 1826. In 1827 he headed again for America, this time to draw Indians in Mexico. Riding from Veracruz on the Gulf Coast toward Mexico City, he was killed when robbers attacked his party on March 22, 1828.

Expedition of 1815-1818

They departed Europe in July 3, 1815, rounded the tip of South America, and touched at Chile before crossing the Pacific to winter in Kamchatka. During the summer of 1816 they explored the Bering Strait and the Aleutian island of Unalaska, heading to California in the fall to stock up on fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. The expedition spent October 1816 anchored in San Francisco Bay, giving Choris ample opportunity to portray its Indian and Spanish inhabitants.

From San Francisco Kotzebue continued on to Hawaii, then called the Sandwich Islands, where they spent nearly four months (November 1816 to March 1817) cruising, mapping, and drawing. A second visit the following autumn gave Choris another opportunity to gather impressions and images of Hawaii. Kotzebue finally reached the Arctic again in the summer of 1817, but illness and unexpected ice cover forced him to head home in July. After visiting Guam, the Philippines, South Africa, and London, the expedition returned to St. Petersburg in August 3, 1818, having circumnavigated the globe.

After the official report had been filed, Choris was encouraged to publish a private edition of his drawings and paintings. In 1819 he went to Paris and arranged for one of the most talented printers in France to reproduce his work using the relatively new technique of lithography. He sold the sumptuous folio volume of more than one hundred plates by subscription, with the Russian czar and the kings of France and Prussia among his customers.

Document Note

Choris’ book has never been translated into English in its entirety; excerpts can be found in Through Alien Eyes : the visit of the Russian ship Rurik to San Francisco in 1816 and the men behind the visit, by Edward Mornin.(Oxford & New York: P. Lang, 2002).

Other Internet and Reference Sources

More details on Kotzebue's voyage can be found in the online exhibit “Science Under Sail: Russia's Great Voyages to America 1728-1867” at

Kotzebue’s report was published as A Voyage of Discovery into the South Sea and Berings Strait… (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, 1821) and Chamisso's appeared in 1986 as A Voyage Around the World with the Romanzov Exploring Expedition in the Years 1815-1818 in the brig Rurik, Captain Otto von Kotzebue (Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press, 1986).

Choris’ other illustrated book was Vues et Paysages des Régions Equinoxiales Recueillis dans un Voyage Autour du Monde (Paris: Paul Renouard, 1826).

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