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Very rare engraving included in The Gentleman’s Magazine for July, 1773, issued in the same year as the accounts of James Cook (published May 1773) that included the discovery of the east coast of Australia and the engraving of a … Read Full Description
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Very rare engraving included in The Gentleman’s Magazine for July, 1773, issued in the same year as the accounts of James Cook (published May 1773) that included the discovery of the east coast of Australia and the engraving of a kangaroo based on George Stubbs painting.
The ‘Magazine’ is a disbound portion for July 1773 and is made up of a printed title and 55 pages of news. There is a description ‘of the Natural History Plate’ on page 320. This image, probably more so than the engraving issued in the much more expensive official publication of Cook’s voyage account would have reached a far greater audience.
This engraving is based on the first illustration of a “Kangaroo” an Australian species, drawn by George Stubbs from a specimen collected at Endeavour River in 1770 by James Cook’s crew while the Endeavour was being careened and issued in the official accounts of the voyage of the Endeavour. This iconic image captured the public’s imagination for over sixty years and was the first depiction of any Australian animal in western art. Confusion exists as to the original species described, based on the specimens brought back by Cook and the subsequent painting by Stubbs. This situation arose in the comparisons of drawings and photographs which are the only records of the lost original specimens, with Parkinson’s sketch made on 23rd June 1770 at Endeavour River and the later Stubbs painting. Parkinon’s sketches and paintings of natural history subjects held in public institutions, clearly show a prodigious artistic talent, and his sketch of a kangaroo made on the spot, is certainly a more realistic depiction than the later version painted by Stubbs that has exaggerated features. Stubbs had the disadvantages of not seeing a live animal and only having the dried skin that was brought back by Cook to work from. It is probable that the skin was firstly re-hydrated and then inflated for Stubbs to be able paint the animal. It has been established that the kangaroos collected on Cook’s expedition near Cooktown were specimens of the Grey Kangaroo, Macropus giganteus (Roland Strachan CBOM p.244).
The first sighting of a kangaroo in fact was an earlier one, by Francis Pelsaert of “the teeming cats” on 15th November, 1629 on the Abrolhos Islands where the Batavia had been wrecked.
The first illustration of a Macropod was made prior to the Stubbs illustration, titled ‘Kangaron’ and made on 15th November 1629 by Matthys Pool and described by Cornelis de Bruyn in Reizen over Moskovie door Persie en Indie, 1714 but the animal depicted was not an Australian species but Thylogale brunii (Dusky Pademelon), a Filander native to New Guinea.
From Cook’s published accounts Endeavour River Qld First sighting of a Kangaroo 22 June 1770 Joseph Banks;
‘The People who were sent to the other side of the water in order to shoot Pigeons saw an animal as large as a grey hound, of a mouse colour and very swift..’
Cook sees a kangaroo 24 June 1770 James Cook;
‘I saw my self this morning a little way from the ship one of the Animals before spoke off, it was of a light Mouse colour and the full size of a grey hound and shaped in every respect like one’.
The animal named 4 August 1770 James Cook;
‘the Animal which I have before mentioned is called by the natives Kangooroo or Kanguru.’
In a study made by W.E.Ling-Roth of the north-west central Queensland Aborigines in 1897, he found that there might have been confusion with the word ‘ganguru’ which meant simply ‘don’t understand your question’. The spelling ‘kanguroo’ prevailed for nearly half a century until the modern version became the standard.
References Lennox-boyd George Stubbs 1989 pg 138 plate 35.III, Hawkesworth An account of the Voyages, 1773 Plate 20, Younger Kangaroo Images Through.. 1988 Pg 47 ill. Pg 46.
George Stubbs (1724 - 1806)
Stubbs was classified in his lifetime as a sporting painter, and as such was excluded from full membership of the Royal Academy. He is best remembered for his paintings of horses and his conversation pieces. Having studied anatomy, Stubbs's pictures of horses are among the most accurate ever painted. Stubbs was born in Liverpool, the son of a leather worker, and he spent his early career painting portraits and developing his interest in anatomy. In the 1740s he lived in York and supplied the illustrations for a treatise on midwifery. Following a brief visit to Rome in 1754, he settled in Lincolnshire, where he researched his major publication, The Anatomy of the Horse. In about 1758 he moved to London, which remained his base. Early clients for his sporting and racing paintings included many of the noblemen who founded the Jockey Club. Like Gainsborough, he later painted scenes of peasant life, as well as studies of wild and exotic animals. He also became known as a printmaker and for his paintings in enamel on Wedgwood earthenware plaques.
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