C1784

Poulaho, King of the Friendly Islands, Drinking Kava.

Rare c.18th engraving from the official British Admiralty sanctioned edition of the accounts of Cook’s third and final voyage. While on Tongatapu from 10 June to 10 July 1777, Cook and his men took part or witnessed a number of … Read Full Description

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Details

Full Title:

Poulaho, King of the Friendly Islands, Drinking Kava.

Date:

C1784

Condition:

In good condition.

Technique:

Copper engraving.

Image Size: 

415mm 
x 270mm

Paper Size: 

540mm 
x 405mm
AUTHENTICITY
Poulaho, King of the Friendly Islands, Drinking Kava. - Antique View from 1784

Genuine antique
dated:

1784

Description:

Rare c.18th engraving from the official British Admiralty sanctioned edition of the accounts of Cook’s third and final voyage.

While on Tongatapu from 10 June to 10 July 1777, Cook and his men took part or witnessed a number of kava ceremonies.

Kava is native to the islands of the South Pacific and was first described for English readers in 1768 by Captain James Cook. The kava root has been used for centuries as a central feature of ceremonies and celebrations because it was able to bring about a calming and pleasant social atmosphere. The root was crushed and processed into coconut milk to become the focal ceremonial beverage, simply referred to as kava.

A semicircle of natives, seated in a large house, watch a man prostrate before the ‘King’ in the foreground. The ‘King ‘ is Fatafei Poulaho, 36th Tu’i Tonga’.

John Webber’s first encounter with the people of the Pacific came in January 1777 when Cook arrived at Adventure Bay, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). He was astonished at their unashamed nakedness. In his first painted version of this portrait, Webber included the man’s full torso, covered with ceremonial scars. Cook described the appearance of the Tasmanian’s as ‘far from disagreeable‘. ‘The keloid scars so typical of the Australian aboriginal adult male; came from cuts incised with a flint or other sharp stone knives, which were often rubbed with ashes of clay to enlarge the effect. They denoted initiation into manhood, but other functions were totemistic and aesthetic.’ Cook, Journals III, I, 52.

From Cook & King, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, for making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere. Performed under the Direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore, in His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Discovery; in the Years 1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780.

References:
Beddie, M. Bibliography of Captain James Cook, RN,FRS, Circumnavigator. Sydney 1970: 1743-20, p.340
Joppien,R. & Smith, B. The Art of Captain Cook’s Voyages; Vol. I, II & III. Melbourne 1985-1987: 3.55A, ill.p.319
Forbes, D. Hawaiian National Bibliography 1780- 1830. Honolulu /Sydney, 1999/2003 62; cf.
Carter, J. & Muir, P. Printing and the Mind of Man London 1983 223.
Sabin, J. A Dictionary of Books Relating to America, from its Discovery to the Present Time. New York. (1936) 1967. 16250.
Hill, J. The Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages. San Diego 1974 321.

Collections:
State Library New South Wales: CALL NUMBERS RB/F990A/9
State Library Victoria: RARELT 910.41 C773VS
State Library South Australia: Special Collection: 919 C771

John Webber (1752 - 1793)

John Webber was an 18th century artist, best known for his work as the official artist on Captain James Cook's third and final voyage to the Pacific in 1776-1780. He was born in London, England in 1751 and was trained as an artist. Webber accompanied Cook on his voyage as the official artist, tasked with creating drawings and paintings of the places and people they encountered. He produced many illustrations and sketches that were used to make engravings for inclusion in the official account of the voyage, published after Cook's death. Webber was required to "give a more perfect idea thereof than can be formed by written description." Webber's illustrations and engravings of the Pacific islands and their inhabitants are considered some of the most accurate and detailed depictions of the region from that time. They provide an important record of the places and people encountered by Cook and his crew, and are valuable for understanding the culture and daily life of the people of the Pacific during the 18th century. He died in London in 1793, after having returned from the voyage, but his work continues to be recognised as an important historical record of the voyage and of the art of his time. Webber's oeuvre from the voyage was the most comprehensive record of sights in the Pacific region ever produced.

View other items by John Webber

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