Mathinna and Lady Jane Franklin at Ancanthe in the Foothills of Mount Wellington

This painting of the landscape around Hobart depicts the Aboriginal girl Mathinna and Lady Franklin in front of ‘Ancanthe’, the art museum modelled after a Greek temple that Lady Franklin had built at the base of Mount Wellington in 1843 in present day Lenah Valley. On a patterned ground representing the rigid domination of British rule, Lady Franklin’s imposing blue dress takes centre stage next to Mathinna’s red dress looking back towards the hills. The sky is filled with the red shoes said to have been worn by Mathinna. In a fragment of a letter left behind, she wrote ‘… I have got a red frock like my father. I have got sore feet and shoes and stockings and I am very glad’. Taken from her family, Mathinna was adopted when she was 6 years old by Lieutenant-Governor John Franklin and his wife Lady Jane Franklin. When the Franklins returned to England in 1843 she was abandoned and left in the Queen’s orphan school, ferried back and forth between Flinders Island and Hobart. She died at the Aboriginal settlement at Oyster Cove aged 17 or 18, accounts of the time saying she drowned as a result of drunkenness.

Susan O'Doherty


Acrylic on canvas