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Captain James Cook 1776-80

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Copyright Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Creator John Webber, artist, 1780
Identifiers Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa number 1960-0013-1 TLF resource R1742
Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This is an image of a framed three-quarter-length portrait of the explorer and navigator Captain James Cook in his Royal Navy uniform. It was begun in 1776 by the artist John Webber (1751-93), who accompanied Cook as the official artist on his third voyage of exploration, from 1776 to 1780, on the ships 'Resolution' and 'Discovery'. The portrait was completed in 1780 after Cook's death in 1779.

Educational value:
  • This asset was painted from life by an artist who knew Cook well - it was one of three portraits of Cook painted by Webber during the voyage.
  • It is one of five surviving portraits of Cook painted in the 18th century.
  • It shows Cook in a pose typical of 18th-century portraiture; although it was traditional at the time to paint the body longer than it actually was, Cook was probably more than 180 centimetres tall.
  • It refers to Cook's work and achievements - the telescope suggests his observations during his three voyages of exploration and the setting may be somewhere in the Pacific region, or it may suggest his work in charting the Pacific, its many islands and the surrounding land masses.
  • It depicts Cook at 51 years of age, wearing the undress (that is, not full dress) uniform of a Royal Navy Post Captain and with his long hair powdered and tied behind his head.

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