||This engraving after a drawing by John Webber comes from the official account of Cook's third voyage, 'A voyage to the Pacific Ocean', published by Scatcherd and Whitaker in 1784.
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.
John Webber was the artist on Cook’s third voyage from 1776-1780.
Cook was in the Friendly Isles from in May of 1777. The ships then went to Tongatapu, Tonga from June 10-July 10, 1777. Tongatapu (also known as Amsterdam) was the largest of the Tongan islands.
The fa'itoka, or burying ground, was described by Cook as a 'wall of stone that enclosed three separate mounts and on each of these mounts stood a house.' This was where the bodies of some of the principle people were interred.
For Webber, the fa'itoka was his first encounter with exotic burial customs. Burial customs offered clues about the religion of hitherto unknown peoples and contained important information on their material culture. Often drawings associated with death also showed an idealized version of nature, and in Webber's drawing there is a link with Nicolas Poussin's Et in Aracadia Ego which is in the Louvre, as Tonga was certainly an arcadian dream.
This is the first of two such engravings.
Mounted in album with PAI4078-PAI4142, PAI4144-PAI4214.; Page 187.; Plate No. 21.