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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 14.1: 19th Century Austrian Artist Illustrations of Life in the Philippines

The Novara Expedition was the first and largest Austrian expedition of its kind. Making its way around the world from 1857 to 1859, the Frigate (warship) Novara’s journey was considered “the last great scientific expedition of the 19th century.” The purpose of this peaceful mission was to conduct research, collect data in many fields of natural science, and to establish new business contacts. The Frigate Novara spent some time in the Philippines during its 551 days of travel.

Dr. Karl Ritter von Scherzer was an Austrian explorer, diplomat and natural scientist charged with collecting data and specimen in the fields ethnography, anthropology, language and statistics. He was also to write the official account of this voyage.

Von Scherzer’s written account was accompanied by illustrations based on the sketches of Joseph Selleny. Selleny was an award-winning Austrian landscape painter and lithographer appointed as the official artist of this expedition. He is said to have produced about 2,000 sketches during this trip.

Von Scherzer/Selleny - Strasse in der Borstadt Binondo - a bustling street in Binondo including men in barongs

The first image featured here is titled Strasse in der Borstadt Binondo [Street in the Suburb of Binondo] (1861). Von Scherzer and Selleny are credited as authors of this piece published in the official account of the Novara Expedition. This is Selleny’s view of a bustling section of Binondo right by the famous Binondo Church in the background.

 Von Scherzer/Selleny - Strasse in der Borstadt Binondo - a bustling street in Binondo including men in barongs (closeup)

The second image above is a closer look at some of the local people in the foreground of this illustration. In the center and to the far left are two well-dressed upper class men in striped Barong Tagalog, white slacks, leather shoes and top hats. The one in the center is possibly carrying a cane or umbrella, as many upper class men did at that time. In the foreground to the far right is a working class man in a dark work barong and rolled up work pants walking barefoot.