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A Woman of Oonalaska (Eskimo)


Object connections:

Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleArtist: Webber, John
Engraver: Delatre, Jean Marie

Object details:

Object ID PAI3921
Description This engraving is after a drawing by John Webber from John Hawkesworth's account (1773) of the voyages of Captain James Cook, Joseph Banks and Captain John Byron. 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's first traveled to Samgoonoodha (English Bay), (Unalaska) between June28-July 2, 1778. He saw the island of Unalaska on June 27, 1778. This stay was very worthwhile for the voyagers. The people encountered were ready to trade and invited the English into their houses. The countryside provided many herbs such as wild peas or celery and plenty of fowl. Most of Webber's field drawings of Alaskan subject matter can be dated to Cook's first stay at Samgoonoodha harbour. With his portraits, Webber concentrated on the physiognomy, the broad cheek bones and slanting eyes, bringing out some of the facial characteristics of Mongolian people. Concerning the appearance and dress of the Unalaskans, Cook says: "These people are rather low of stature, but plump and well shaped, with rather short necks, swarthy chubby faces, black eyes, small bears, and straight long black hair, which the men wear loose behind and cut before...their dress...both, men and womens are made alike, the only difference is in the materials, the womans frock is made of Seal skin and the Mens of birds skin and both reach below the knee...some of them wear boots and all of them a kind of oval snouted cap..." Samwell provides a longer description of the Aleut women than Cook: "They are of a copper complexion with a strong red in their Cheeks, their hair is black and coarse which they tye behind in a large Club; they have their Cheeks and chins tattawed or marked and likewise their arms, their cheek bones are high like a Scotchman's with this difference that they are all well covered with Flesh, which makes their faces broad & plump; their eyes are black & small and not at right angles with the Nose but slanting obliquely upwards. They are all cloathed in a seal skin Frock which reaches from their Necks down to their Feet & the Sleeves reach to the Hand, so that they are entirely covered except their Faces and hands, they wear nothing on their Heads. They sometimes wear boots & have always a piece of Seal Skin tyed round the small of their Legs." Cook also wrote of this sitter: "We met with a very beautiful young Woman accompanied by her Husband who having some Ornaments about her we had not noticed before, & being altogether very prettily dressed Mr. Webber was willing to have a sketch of her, and as we had time enough on our Hands we sat down together and he made a drawing of her; we were all charmed with the good nature and affability with which she complyed with our Wishes in staying to have her picture drawn, & with what readiness she stood up or sat down according a she was desired, seeming very much pleased in having an opportunity to oblige us. She was withal very communicative and intelligent and it was from her I learnt that the Name of the Harbour where the Ships lie is Samgoonoodha." Loosely bound in album with PAI3893-PAI3920, PAI3922-PAI3936.; Plate No.49.
Date made 1778

Artist/Maker Webber, John
Delatre, Jean Marie
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials engraving & etching
Measurements Plate: 281 x 214 mm; Sheet: 535 x 390 mm
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