Mai (Omai)

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Mai (Omai)

by Johann Jacobé, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
mezzotint, 1780
24 3/8 in. x 15 1/8 in. (620 mm x 384 mm) paper size
Acquired, 1964
Reference Collection
NPG D1361

Sitterback to top

  • Mai (Omai) (circa 1753-circa 1780), First Polynesian to visit England. Sitter in 7 portraits.

Artistsback to top

  • Johann Jacobé (1733-1797), Printmaker. Artist or producer associated with 8 portraits.
  • Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), Painter and first President of the Royal Academy. Artist or producer associated with 1424 portraits, Sitter associated with 39 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Reynolds’s portrait, which was widely known through this mezzotint, had an important influence on the perception of Omai as the personification of the ‘natural man’ – an ideal developed by the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1780back to top

Current affairs

Anti-Catholic mob led by Lord George Gordon marches on Parliament to protest against the Catholic Relief Act, leading to the outbreak of the Gordon Riots in London. Six days of rioting are ended by the intervention of troops, with 285 people shot dead.
Dunning's Motion in Parliament attacks the influence of the crown, suggesting that it has increased and ought to be diminished.

Art and science

Royal Academy moves to Somerset House on The Strand, London.
Mrs E. Johnson's British Gazette and Sunday Monitor, the first Sunday newspaper in Britain, begins publication.
Potter Josiah Wedgwood invents the pyrometer; a device used for measuring high temperatures.

International

American War of Independence: British troops under Charles Cornwallis defeat American army under Horatio Gates at Camden, South Carolina. The capture of British army officer and spy John André yields proof that US general Benedict Arnold is in the pay of the British. André is executed in as a spy.
Second Anglo-Mysore War in India between Hyder Ali and the East India Company.
Bolshoi Theatre of opera and ballet is founded in Moscow.

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