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A Woman of Prince William's Sound


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Gallery locationNot on display

Object details:

Object ID PAI4171
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.. This is seen as one of Webber's most successful drawings. 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 Prince William Sound (Sandwich Sound), Alaska, from May 12-20, 1778. While on board, Webber made free sketches of local Indians. He was careful to depict their distinctive dress and ornamentation: their 'foul weather frocks', with hoods from the intestines of the whale, and their custom of slitting or piercing their underlip to fasten pieces of bones. Cook's description of the sitter: "I saw not a woman with a head dress of any kind, they had all long black hair a part of which was tied up in a bunch over the forehead...though the lips of all were not slit, yet all were bored, especially the women and even the young girls; to these holes and slits they fix pieces of bone of this size and shape, placed side by side in the inside of the lip; a thread is run through them to keep them together, and some goes quite through the lip and fastens, or fore-locks on the out side to which they hang other pieces of bone or beads. This Ornament is a very great impediment to the speach and makes them look as if they had a double row of teeth in the under jaw. Besides these lip-jewels which they seemed to value above all others, they wear a bone, or some bugle beads strung on a stif string or Cord 3 or 4 inches long, run through the cartilage that divides the nostril from each other. Their ears are bored all round to which they hang beads or pieces of bone." Cook says of the inhabitants of Sandwich Sound in general terms: "Men, women and children were all cloathed alike, in a kind of frocks made of the skins of different animals... most of the men wore what Crantz calls a leather pelt, or rather a shirt made of the skin of large guts, probably those of the whale, they are made to draw tight round the neck, the sleeves reach as low as the wrist round which they are tied with a string [...] The men had beards though not large to which they hang beads or pieces of bone [...] Some both men and women have the underlip slit quite through horizontally, and so large as to admit the tongue which I have seen them thrust through." Mounted in album with PAI4078-PAI4170, PAI4172-PAI4214.; Page 215.; Plate No. 47.
Date made 1778

Artist/Maker Webber, John
Elder, James Basire the
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials engraving & etching
Measurements Sheet: 570 x 400 mm; Plate: 310 x 245 mm
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