||This engraving, after drawings by artist William Hodges, comes from the official account of Cook's second voyage, 'A Voyage towards the South Pole', published by Strahan and Cadell in 1777.
Captain James Cook (1728-1779) made three separate voyages to the Pacific (with the ships Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure, and Discovery) and did more than any other voyager to explore the Pacific and Southern Ocean. Cook not only encountered Pacific cultures for the first time, but also assembled the first large-scale collections of Pacific objects to be brought back to Europe. He was killed in Hawaii in 1779.
William Hodges (1744 - 1797) joined Cook's second expedition to the South Pacific as a draughtsman 1772-75 and was employed by the Admiralty in finishing his drawings.
Cook traveled to Vanuatu in July of 1774. Cook's judgment was that the islanders, the Malekulans, were 'the most ugly and ill proportioned people' he ever saw.
In Hawkesworth's account: shortly after Cook had anchored on 22 July, islanders came out to trade in their canoes and four came aboard. Both Cook and Forster commented upon their appearance: they wore no clothes, except a piece of cloth or leaf by which they tied the penis up to the belly. They had wooly short-cropped hair, thick lips, and very dark complexions, and the septum was perforated by a curved stone. Hodges made several studies of the islanders who came aboard. They were 'easily persuaded to sit for their portraits and seemed to have an idea of the representations'.
When Hodges painted The Landing at Mallicolo, now at the NMM, he 'adopted the transitional mode of history painting, the mitigated realism popularized by Benjamin West. Cook's men are shown in their contemporary dress and the islanders are painted to accord with the ethnographic reports, but he does continue to make use, particularly in the case of the islanders, of poses and gestures whose ultimate origin lies in classic statuary, making them tall and dignified of bearing.
Hodge's dignified presentation of the Malekulans is quite at variance with the published account, in which Cook describes them as 'ape-like', the most ugly, ill-proportioned people I ever saw,' 'a rather diminutive race; with long heads, flat faces and monkey countenances.' Gerogre Forster left a more sympathetic impression: 'The features of these people, though remarkably irregular and ugly, yet are full of great sprightliness, and express a quick comprehension.'
This is the first of two such engravings.
Mounted in album with PAI4078-PAI4081, PAI4083-PAI4214.; Page 128.; No. 60.