Samuel de Champlain. Governor-General of Canada (New France)


There are no surviving portraits of Samuel de Champlain made during his lifetime. This lithograph is a counterfeit produced in circa 1854. It is based on the portrait of a contemporary of Champlain’s, Michel Particelli d’Emery (superintendent of finances under King Louis XIII), which was engraved by Balthasar Montcornet in Paris in 1654. At the bottom of the portrait, the forger signed the name “Ducornet,” an altered version of Montcornet. Soon after, the work was attributed to Louis-César-Joseph Ducornet, a handicapped artist who painted using his mouth and his one foot. This portrait of Champlain subsequently inspired several imitations. Born in the small Atlantic port of Brouage before 1580 to a Protestant family (although he became a Catholic), Champlain fought in the army of King Henri IV from 1595 to 1598. He then spent two years in the Caribbean. In 1603 he took part in the commercial and reconnaissance expedition led by François Gravé du Pont (born circa 1554), which took him to Tadoussac on the Atlantic coast of Canada and from there to Hochelaga (the site of Montreal). This was the beginning of an exceptional career for Champlain, as explorer, draftsman, cartographer, colonizer, propagandist, and author of numerous voyage accounts. Champlain is often celebrated as the "Father of New France." In the service of the Protestant merchant, Pierre Du Gua de Monts, he participated in the beginning of French colonization in Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia) between 1604 and 1607. In 1608, he founded a trading post at Quebec City. Until his death in 1635, he made multiple trips from France to the New World and back as he worked to open New France to development. Interested above all in the knowledge and mastery of the land, he ascended the Ottawa River to reach Georgian Bay in the Canadian interior. He formed alliances with the Montagnais, Algonquin, and, especially, the Huron Indians with whom he went to war against the Iroquois on three occasions.

Last updated: May 24, 2016