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Description

This finely hand-colored set of four aquatints by James and John Cleveley, engraved by Francis Jukes, represents a significant and vibrant visual documentation of Captain James Cook's third and final voyage. These works, allegedly based on James Cleveley's sketches on the spot, later refined by his brother John, encapsulate the journey of HMS Resolution and Discovery through detailed and lively imagery, culminating in the dramatic depiction of Cook's demise in Hawaii.

Cook's Third Voyage, commencing in 1776, was officially aimed at returning Omai to Raiatea but also secretly intended to discover the Northwest Passage. It led to significant discoveries, including the Hawaiian Archipelago and detailed charting of the North American west coast. The journey's narrative, from its scientific endeavors to the tragic end of Cook in a clash with Hawaiians, is richly captured in these aquatints.

The artistic process involved aquatint engraving by Francis Jukes, a technique that allowed for subtle gradations in tone and color, closely mimicking watercolors. This process was pivotal in achieving the detailed and vibrant quality of these prints, which Thomas Martyn's Academy further enhanced through hand-coloring, aiming to replicate the original sketches' appearance closely.

The titles and scenes depicted in the aquatints—ranging from the serene views of Matavai Bay, Tahiti, and Huahine to the lively depiction of Moorea and the somber scene of Cook's death in Hawaii—reflect a broad spectrum of experiences and encounters during the voyage. Each image serves as a window into the complexity of cultural interactions, the beauty of the explored lands, and the perilous nature of such expeditions.

The Cleveley brothers' work, through its artistic merit and historical significance, contributes to the broader discourse on exploration, cultural exchange, and the impact of colonial encounters. These aquatints embody the intersection of art, exploration, and empire, offering insights into the romanticized and often contentious narratives of 18th-century European voyages in the Pacific.

The Images

The first image, "View of Charlotte Sound in New Zealand in the South Seas," is actually Matavai Bay, Tahiti. The image shows Captain Cook with Tahitians on the beach, Tahitian dwellings, canoes and Cook's two ships, the Resolution and Discovery

The second, "View of Huaheine one of the Society Islands in the South Seas," dated May 26, 1787, captures the tranquility of Huahine with British ships in repose amidst the island's verdant landscape. The juxtaposition of Polynesian canoes against European vessels underscores the diverse navigational legacies converging in this maritime theater.

In the third print, "View of Morea one of the Friendly Islands in the South Seas," one observes a microcosm of colonial interaction set against the dramatic topography of Moorea. Dated September 1787, this scene is replete with colonial bartering, Polynesian daily life, and the striking natural beauty that would have both challenged and enchanted European explorers.

The fourth and most historically significant print, "View of Owyhee, one of the Sandwich Islands in the South Seas, With the Death of Captn Cook," depicts the tragic skirmish at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, on February 14, 1779. The print, dated July 5, 1788, serves as a somber tribute to the end of Cook's illustrious career and life, highlighting the volatile nature of cultural encounters during this period. 

Condition Description
Four aquatints with engraving. Original hand-color. Expertly conserved, having three of the four plates with margins extended from the image, attractively float-mounted and framed. Frames are a little rough from handling. States undetermined.
Reference
Joppien & Smith, The Art of Captain Cook's Voyages, 1988.