||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 Matavai Bay, Tahiti, Society Islands from August 24-September 30, 1777. Matavai Bay was the most famous place in the South Seas, already visited on several occasions and made known by engravings after Sydney Parkinson and William Hodges.
The tupapau shown here is an elevated platform used as a resting place for the dead. Tee was a chief that Cook had known from his previous voyage, and it was at his desire that the shroud that covered the body was removed and the corpse exposed. Tee had been dead for more than four months and, despite the humid climate, his body had been succcesfully preserved by embalming.
In Webber's drawing Tee looks as if he is still alive. The impression is reinforced in Webber's second drawing of the same subject, in which Tee is shown apparently being waited upon by the attendant figure. The figure reclining on his death bed distincly recalls Nicolas Poussin's famous painting The Death of Germanicus. Webber here was working well within the conventions of European art.
Mounted in album with PAI4078-PAI4150, PAI4152-PAI4214.; Page 195.; Plate No. 26.