Mai (Omai)

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Mai (Omai)

by Francesco Bartolozzi, after Nathaniel Dance (later Sir Nathaniel Holland, Bt)
etching and stipple engraving, published 25 October 1774
21 3/8 in. x 13 in. (544 mm x 330 mm) plate size; 22 3/4 in. x 14 in. (577 mm x 355 mm) paper size
Bequeathed by (Frederick) Leverton Harris, 1927
Reference Collection
NPG D14242

Sitterback to top

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

Artistsback to top

Events of 1774back to top

Current affairs

Philanthropist and reformer John Howard is called before the House of Commons Select Committee to give evidence on the shocking conditions in prisons across the country.
Young Tahitian Omai arrives in England after making contact with Captain James Cook on his second voyage. He is introduced into London Society by Joseph Banks and is much admired.
Coercive or 'Intolerable' Acts are passed in response to the crisis in the American colonies.

Art and science

Philosopher and chemist Joseph Priestley isolates oxygen in the form of a gas.
Artist Thomas Gainsborough moves from Bath to set up a studio in London.
Royal Crescent, Bath, designed by John Wood the Younger, is completed.
Methodist preacher John Wesley publishes his pamphlet Thoughts Upon Slavery which argues against slavery.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe publishes his romantic novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, bringing him an immediate European reputation.
In retaliation for the Boston Tea Party, the port of Boston is closed under the first of the British government's Coercive Acts. Delegates from twelve American colonies meet in Philadelphia and agree not to import any goods from Britain.
Death of Louis XV of France. Louis XVI succeeds.

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Dick Furneaux Stubbs

28 February 2020, 20:45

Omai was in fact brought to England by Capt Tobias Furneaux commander of the Adventure, the 2nd ship in Cook’s 2nd voyage. Furneaux initiated the contact with Omai, and this was originally objected to by Cook who felt that Omai was not of high enough class. Omai was a great success in England and Cook admitted same.