These lithographs were made after the drawings of Louis Delaporte (1842-1925), a young naval officer and skilled draftsman who accompanied the 1866-1868 Mekong Exploration Commission. The exploration of the Mekong was one of the most significant expeditions in Southeast Asia in the nineteenth century, taking two years to complete and covering territory of what is now Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and south China. The principle goal of the expedition was to discover whether the Mekong could be a river trade route to China from the newly-established French territories in south Vietnam. The explorers also documented the landscape, local peoples and cultures, and flora and fauna.While the subject matter of Delaporte's illustrations indicates the scientific aspirations of the expedition, the images also emphasise picturesque and exotic elements, which created the popular appeal for the published accounts of the expedition. The artist’s style is realist and highly detailed, in keeping with his official role of visually documenting the expedition, establishing the verisimilitude of the imagery. These images demonstrate the intimate connections between exploration, colonialism, representation and the pursuit of knowledge.