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Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

James Cook (1728-1779), Circumnavigator

There were just three portraits of Cook, by Hodges 1775-76, Dance 1776, and Webber 1777, of whom only Dance was a portrait painter. Cook iconography is therefore an austere study - but after his death his image was much in demand and many unreliable portraits were produced, while others acquired his name.
A. Klenman, The Faces of Captain Cook, a numismatic memoir, 1983, illustrates medals from 1772-1979. A useful listing of secondary material relating to Cook iconography in Australian Libraries appears in M. K. Beddie, Bibliography of Captain Cook, 1970, pp 501-12, 530-617.

1775-76
Painting by William Hodges, half length in Captain’s uniform. National Maritime Museum (BHC 1802). Hodges sailed with Cook on his second voyage 1772-75 and the portrait was probably painted in London between August 1775 and July 1776. Adapted for an engraving by J. Basire 1777 (exhibited Free Society of Artists, London, 1778, no.14), from whose plate derived others by J. Tookey 1784, Thornton 1784 (‘from the Original Picture in the Possession of G. W. Anderson’), and Gabriel.

A version was exhibited Manchester 1857(modern masters 110) lent John Garland, and a copy by Michele Cornè 1803 is in the Peabody Museum, Salem, Mass. (illus. Connoisseur, CLXXXI, 1972, p 209).

1776
Painting by Nathaniel Dance, three-quarter length seated in Captain’s full dress uniform. National Maritime Museum (BHC 2628). Commissioned by Joseph Banks and presented by his executor, Sir Edward Knatchbull, to the Painted Hall, Greenwich, 1829. Engraved J. K. Sherwin 1778; I. F. Bolt 1788; T. Holloway 1790; P. Roberts, and W. Holl; many reduced plates, including one by J. Collyer 1780 ‘from a painting by Mr Dance in the Possession of Joseph Banks Esq’. Painted in May 1776, the most competent and reliable image of Cook: ‘the plate engraved by Sherwin, after a painting by Dance, is a most excellent likeness of Captain Cook; and more to be valued, as it is the only one I have seen that bears any resemblance to him’ (D. Samwell, Death of Captain James Cook, 1786, p 23).

Copies include those in the NPG, Canberra; Australia House, London (made in 1928); Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; and those sold Christie’s, 8 April 1986, lot 68; Christie’s, 1 March 1990, lot 152; Christie’s, 8 April 1998, lot 108 (bust-length miniature); an extended version was with Colnaghi c.1907.

1776
Painting by John Webber, see NPG 26.

1777
Painting by John Webber. Drawn at Tahiti at the request of King Otoo, and last seen there in 1791 (R. Joppien & B. Smith, The Art of Captain Cook's Voyages, III, 3-454).

Posthumous
1777-84
Painting by James Barry, Commerce, part of the Progress of Human Culture, in which ‘the late Captain Cook of amiable memory’ appears in the centre left foreground. Royal Society of Arts, London (W. L. Pressly, The Life and Art of James Barry, 1981, no.25). Engraved J. Barry 1791. The head derived from the Dance portrait of 1776.

1778
‘Antique marble profile of a man, pressed into service as an ideal likeness of Cook’ on the base of the Cook monument at Stowe.

by 1779
Wedgwood medallion, attributed to John Flaxman (see also 1784 below), derived from Basire’s engraving after Hodges (illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 111).

1780
Model for a monument to Captain Cook by Thomas Banks, the corpse stretched over a globe, attended by Britannia. Banks sale, Christie's, 22 May 1805, lot 104. Exhibited RA 1780 (474). Never executed, the design was etched, probably by Banks himself (illus. C. F. Bell, Annals of Thomas Banks, 1938, pl.IV).

Wax portrait by J. F. Vandermeulen, exhibited Society of Artists, London, 1780 (277).

Cook Memorial medal, the verso inscribed: Courage and Perseverance, or: Kill’d by the Indians (illus. A. Klenman, The Faces of Captain Cook, 1983, K3, K4)

1782
Painting by John Webber, [dated 1782] three-quarter length, in captain’s full dress uniform, the head copied from NPG 26. NPG Canberra, from Webber’s sale 14-15 June 1793, and Trinity House, Hull, 1844-1983 (R. Joppien & B. Smith, The Art of Captain Cook's Voyages, III, 3-452). Probably the portrait from the Webber sale, Christie's, 2nd day, 15 June 1793, lot 88 (see NPG 26).

An undated, slightly extended and less gainly version, with telescope in left hand and hat in right, is in the Museum of New Zealand, Wellington (R. Joppien & B. Smith, The Art of Captain Cook's Voyages, III, 3-453); from Cook’s widow (d. 1835), by whom given to Greenwich Naval Hospital 1824, but returned to her in 1829 when the Dance portrait of 1776 was presented (letters in NPG archive). Mrs Cook disliked one of Cook's portraits (presumably this one) which she thought made Cook look severe, ‘and she was ‘hurt’ by the idea that he was severe’ (J. Beaglehole, Life of Captain Cook, 1974, p 695). Beaglehole illustrates the Wellington portrait, f.p.696, dating it 1776, which is surely a mistake (cf. W. Hauptmann, John Webber, Bern, Machester 1996, p 139).

1784
Wax profile by John Flaxman, half length. Private collection. Closely resembling the Wedgwood medallion modelled by Flaxman the same year (illus. R. Reilly and G. Savage, Wedgwood the Portrait Medallions, 1973, p 111).

Memorial medal by Lewis Pingo (L. Brown, A Catalogue of British Historical Medals 1760-1960: The Accession of George III to the Death of William IV, 1980, no.258; C. Eimer, The Pingo Family & Medal Making in the 18th-century Britain, 1998, no.64). Produced for the Royal Society, commissioned by Joseph Banks; resembling the Flaxman 1784 profile. Engraved anon. 1785.

1788
Marble bust by Auguste Pajou, all’antica undraped, on the pedestal of a monument designed by Hubert Robert. Erected in the parc de Méréville, Etampes, commissioned by Jean-Joseph de la Borde; transferred to the Château de Jeurre 1887; the bust offered for sale 1938-39 (see H. Stein, Pajou, 1912, pp 136-38; correspondence and photographs in NPG archive).

1790
Marble bust by Lucien Le Vieux, see NPG 984.

before 1791
Medallion by James Tassie, derived from the Dance portrait of 1776 (J. M. Gray, James and William Tassie, a biographial and critical sketch with a catalogue of their portrait medallions of modern personages, 1894, no.87). Plaster replica Scottish NPG (PG 487), cast from a medallion belonging to Jeffery Whitehead in 1894.

The several depictions of the death of Cook in Hawaii, include the unfinished painting by Johann Zoffany, c.1795 (National Maritime Museum; BHC 0424).

Later statues and monuments include: 1844 model for a statue of Cook by W. G. Nicholl, exhibited Westminster Hall 1844, 'a tame crabbed looking person' (R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptures, 1968 ed., p 271); 1864-67 unattributed stone medallion, Bradford Wool Exchange; 1867 statue by W. F. Woodington, formerly Liverpool Exchange (illus. T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Liverpool, 1998, p 302); 1878 bronze statue by Thomas Woolner, Hyde Park, Sydney NSW. (illus. A. Woolner, Thomas Woolner, 1917, f.p.280); c.1900 stone statue by L-J. Chavalliaud, formerly Liverpool, Palm House (illus. T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Liverpool, 1998,p 202); 1912 bronze statue by John Tweed, Whitby, West Cliff (illus. Bennett, Discovering Statues, 1968, p 64); bronze replica at St Kilda, Australia; a bronze statuette in the Royal Ontario Museum (951.53); 1914 bronze statue by Thomas Brock, London, The Mall (illus. A. Byron, London Statues: A Guide to London's outdoor statues and sculpture, 1981, p 23); 1994 bronze statue by Anthony Stones, National Maritime Museum.

Doubtful Portraits
See NPG 1414. Lithograph by Albert Hoffay 1827, allegedly after Reynolds, dedicated to the Duke of Clarence.


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.