Only a small number of portraits of Cook were drawn from life. All other images of Cook were based on these and on the imaginings of generations of artists and engravers. The Cook we recognise is something of a stereotype, created by a market hungry for images of the great man.
Cook's portrait by artist William Hodges is one of these few portraits painted by someone who knew him well. As a result, it is felt to be a true likeness of Cook.
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Artist William Hodges probably painted this portrait of Captain James Cook as they sailed home from Cook's second Pacific voyage in 1775, or just after their return to Britain. Courtesy: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Hodges' painting of Cook was engraved by James Basire in 1777 as the frontispiece of the account of Cook's second voyage. This engraving, rather than the oil painting, became the earliest image of Cook available to the public. Courtesy: National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an7691895.
This engraved image of Cook came from the French edition of the account of Cook's second voyage, published in 1778. French editions of Captain Cook's voyages were usually released a year after the English version. By James Desmarest. Courtesy: National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an9186352.
John Flaxman modelled this wax portrait matrix of Captain Cook in about 1777, based on the published portrait of Cook by engraver James Basire. Flaxman's wax portrait was used to make the mould for Wedgwood & Bentley medallions of the famous navigator. Photo: George Serras.
This Wedgwood & Bentley portrait medallion of Captain Cook, dating from about 1779, was cast from Flaxman's model. Photo: George Serras.
Pratt ware portraits of Captain Cook such as this were mass produced, cheaper versions of the Wedgwood & Bentley portrait medallions. This image is four steps away from the original Hodges' portrait. It was based on the Wedgwood medallion design, which was cast from John Flaxman's wax matrix, which was modelled from Basire's engraving of Hodges' painting. Photo: George Serras.