Borget visited the Philippines in 1839 (he is recorded at Manila in July and August) on his travels around the world from 1836-1840, and subsequently exhibited two Philippine oils at the Paris Salons in 1842 (the present picture) and 1847 (Bords du Passig, à Manille). The 1842 Salon catalogue describes the incident whose conclusion Borget has depicted in the foreground, where an Indian is discovered dying by a dead buffalo at the foot of a large tree in the forest of Jala-Jala outside Manila: 'Un bufle surprend un Indien et le force à se réfugier sur un arbre ou il garde à vue pendant deux jours. Pressé par la faim, l'Indien descendit et fut assez agîle pour s'emparer de la queue de l'animal qui se mit à fuir, et furieux, essayait de temps en temps de se débarasser de cet obstacle. A chacun de ses tentatives, l'Indien le frappait de son couteau. Il fut trouvé expirant à côté de l'animal mort.' (Explication des Ouvrages de Peinture, Sculpture, Architecture, Gravure et Lithographie des Artistes Vivants, exposés au Musée Royal le 15 Mars 1842, Paris, 1842, p. 25).
The Chateauroux Library includes a note by Borget's friend and collector, Ulric Richard-Desaix, recording what was presumably a preparatory drawing for the present picture: "Nous avons vu chez notre ami, M. Ivan Carraud un superbe dessin: Bord d'une forêt, Arbre gigantesque agrémenté de lianes grimpantes. Crayon mine de plomb, sur papier jaune (Haut 0m65-Larg 0m42,) Légende autographe de l'auteur "Jala-Jala (Luçon) 17 aout 1839."
Jala-Jala, a peninsula which juts out into the Laguna de Bai outside Manila remained forested until the 1950s. It was purchased by a French doctor, Paul de la Gironière in the 1820s from the Minister of Finanace. Gironière had arrived in Manila in 1820, married a Spanish Marchioness, Doña Ana de las Salinas and became a Surgeon Major of the 1st Light Regiment of the Spanish Army and a wealthy society doctor. He introduced cashcrops to Jala-Jala and ran it as a model farm. The peninsula was frequented by tourists for its game hunting and by naturalists attracted to the diverse flora and fauna of the area: 'Jala-Jala is a long peninsula, extending from north to south, in the middle of the lake of Bay. This peninsula is divided longitudinally for the space of three leagues by a chain of mountains, which diminish gradually in height till they become mere hillocks. These mountains, are easy of access, and generally covered on one side with forests, and on the other with fine pasturage, abounding with waving and flexible grass ... It is impossible to find more splendid vegetation, which is watered by pure and limpid springs that gush from the mountain heights, and roll in a meandering course to join the waters of the lake. These pasture grounds constitute Jala-Jala the greatest game preserve in the island: wild boards, deer, buffaloes, fowl, quail, snipe, pigeons of fifteen or twenty different varieties, parrots - in short all sorts of birds abound in them ... No matter to what nation belonged those who landed at Jala-Jala, they were received like brothers, and with all the cordial hospitality to be found formerly in our colonies. My visitors enjoyed full and active liberty on my little estate ... to sportsmen Jala-Jala was really a "promised land"; there they always found a good pack of hounds, Indians to guide them, good stout horses to carry them across the various mountains and plains, where the stag and boar were to be met with most plentifully ...' P.P. de la Gironière, Twenty Years in The Philippines, New York, 1854, pp. 73 and 186.
Paul de la Gironière left Jala-Jala for France in 1839, the year of Borget's visit, after the death of his wife and son from illness. He remarried in France and never returned to the Philippines.
We are grateful to Jun Terra for his help in preparing the present catalogue entry.
To be included in Loïc Stavrides' projected catalogue raisonné of the work of Auguste Borget.