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Unknown man, formerly known as James Cook

Unknown man, formerly known as James Cook, by Unknown artist, circa 1765 -NPG 1414 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Unknown man, formerly known as James Cook

by Unknown artist
circa 1765
36 1/4 in. x 27 3/8 in. (921 mm x 695 mm)
NPG 1414

Inscriptionback to top

Inscribed, bottom left: James Cook.RN/Anno 1776/Atatis 38; verso of original canvas inscribed: This Portrait of/Jas Cook Marine-/Surveyor/was painted at Newfondland/for Captn Graves the Governor/in the year 1766.

This portraitback to top

Acquired as a portrait of Captain Cook, but there is no resemblance between NPG 1414 and his three authentic portraits. The ‘Captain Graves’ of the inscription was governor of Newfoundland 1762-64; Cook made annual surveys of the Newfoundland coast in 1763, 1764, 1765 and 1766. There is a slight resemblance to Captain John Gore (c.1730-90), according to the portrait by John Webber (Nan Kivell collection; Canberra); [1] Gore served as third lieutenant under Cook in 1767-71 and first lieutenant in 1776-9. In 1916 Collins Baker suggested an attribution to Bickeray, [2] an artist otherwise unknown.

Footnotesback to top

1) Exhibited Captain Cook, Portland, Oregon, 1974 (129).
2) Burl. Mag., XXIX, 1916, p 100.

Physical descriptionback to top

Brown eyes, powdered hair; the uniform somewhat resembles that of a naval lieutenant:1 dark blue coat with blue lapels and a white lining, and gold buttons bearing a four-petal rose with an anchor painted over; white neckcloth and waistcoat, the buttons similar to those on the coat.

1 Comd. May of the National Maritime Museum tentatively suggested, mainly from the cut and length of the waistcoat, that it might show an early lieutenant’s uniform (note of 3 November 1953; NPG archive). Cook was promoted lieutenant in May 1768.

Provenanceback to top

[Palisser and Cook-Hervey];1 John A. East,2 London, from whom purchased 1905.

1 ‘The portrait was acquired by purchase & from what I have heard I believe was formerly in the possession of the Palissers & Cook-Herveys who I think were related’ (J. A. East to Cust, 9 August 1905). Palisser doubtless implied Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser, governor of Newfoundland 1764-69 and an admirer of Cook.
2 East had previously offered another portrait of Cook to the NPG in 1902 'with his hand on a globe and ascribed to Zoffany’ (letter from East, 5 February 1902; NPG archive).

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.

View all known portraits for James Cook


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