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Woman of the Island of Tanna (with a child)


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Gallery locationNot on display

Object details:

Object ID PAI4095
Description This engraving, after a drawing 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 Tanna between August 6-20, 1774. As recorded in Hawkesworth's account: "Full-face with shoulders, wearing a bonnet, ear ornamanets and a necklace; a child's head appears over her right shoulder. Probably developed from a lost drawing made at Tana." 'The Women have all the same ornaments as Men, Nose-Stones, Earrings, Shells on the Breast & Bracelets . . . their heads covered with a kind of cap made of a Plantain leaf or a Mat-Basket. Few are uncovered, & even very young Girls have these Caps. The women carry their young Children on their backs in a kind of bag made of a piece of cloth of the abovementioned kind.' J.R. Forster William Blake was an apprentice of five years' standing in the Basire workshop (the engravor) when Woman of the Island of Tanna was published in 1777. The workshop itself was a small one, employing only two apprentices during most of the time that Blake was there. There are some stylistic features that point to Blake, though at the time he had not developed his own characteristic style. The large, clear and intense eyes of the Tanan portraits are markedly different from those of any other portraits in the volume, and the engraver of the Woman of the Island of Tanna has transformed the soft hair of Hodge's original into strong wiry curls. Blake, loyal to his master Basire, detested the elegant tonalism of Barolozzi and his circle -- and such a transformation would be entirely in character. Furthermore, the rather indifferent child's head, tucked between the head and shoulder of its mother in Hodges's original, has been given an appealing chubby arm and a cherubic pale radiance, which quite transforms the original. This, too, puts one in mind of Blake. If Blake did have a hand in the Woman of the Island of Tanna engraving (and he would probably have seen it in production in Basire's workshop), it must be included among those influences that contributed to the writing of his poem 'The Little Black Boy.' This is the second of two such engravings. Mounted in album with PAI4078-PAI4094, PAI4096-PAI4214.; Page 141.; Plate No. XLV.
Date made 1 Feb 1777

Artist/Maker Elder, James Basire the
Strahan, William
Cadell, Thomas
Hodges, William
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials engraving & etching
Measurements Sheet: 320 x 248 mm
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