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An Man of Nootka Sound


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Gallery locationNot on display

Object details:

Object ID PAI4161
Description 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's traveled to Nootka Sound (King George's Sound), Vancouver Island, on the north-west coast of America between March 29-April 26th, 1778. It is noted that Webber, in representing indigenous people, tended to see the ethnic type rather than the individual. Yet, none of his portraits are stereotypes. His portraits of the Nootka in particular attest to his sense of specific differences among individuals. The women and men of Nootka shared the art of daubing or powdering their faces. The men in general were more particular about it. He has a criss-cross pattern on his forehead and wears some leather and copper ornaments suspended from his ears. In terms of physiognomy the drawing answers the verbal description of the men that King gives them, remarking on their 'high cheek bones; their Noses small, neither flat or Prominent; little mouths, small black Eyes void of fire, &... an unusual flatness towards the forehead. To give this portrait more 'truth' Webber added red water-colour to the face. In another portrait of a different man, whose forehead was painted with wavy lines, Webber used black and red chalk effectively (plate 115). Not only did the Indians show great variety in the ornamentation of their faces, their visitors seldom saw one man wear the same countenance two days together. They were an artful people, and it was expressed as much in their dress as in their canoes and weapons. Particularly noteworthy to Cook and his men were the masks of the Nootka, many of which resembled birds' heads. Many of these were traded. From Cook's account: "Their hair is black or dark brown, straight, strong and long, in general they wear it flowing, but some tie it up in a bunch on the crown and others twist it into large locks and add to it false hair, so that their heads look like a swab." "When they have a mind to be particular, they make use of a kind of stamp, composed of the small twigs of trees, and formed according to fancy: this they dip into the prepared mixture of black, red, or brown earth, and oil, and then press it upon their face, which leaves the impression behind." Ellis (1782) Mounted in album with PAI4078-PAI4160, PAI4162-PAI4214.; Page 205.; Plate No. 38.
Date made 1778

Artist/Maker Webber, John
Sharp, William
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials engraving & etching
Measurements Sheet: 570 x 400 mm; Plate: 305 x 240 mm
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