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Captain James Cook

Date: c 1845
Overall: 180 x 120 x 115 mm, 0.65 kg
Medium: Glazed pottery
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Figurine
Object No: 00032993
Place Manufactured:Staffordshire

User Terms

    Captain James Cook became a celebrated figure in the 19th and 20th century, commonly depicted on books, plaques and posters. This glazed porcelain figurine of Captain Cook seated next to a round table and holding a manuscript was produced by the Alpha Factory in England. It was based on a 1776 portrait of Cook by Nathaniel Dance and would have been an expensive item to purchase at the time. High quality porcelain figures were popular items to decorate the home and often commemorated notable British celebrities.
    SignificanceThis figurine represents the various souvenirs and memorabilia produced to commemorate Captain James Cook following his death. It was produced during the Victorian era, a period active in the celebration of heroes and events in British culture. Here Staffordshire Pottery has placed Cook in the company of Shakespeare, Nelson and Wellington.
    HistoryThe Alpha Factory was active between 1845 and 1851 and typically produced standing or seated porcelain figures. All their works required at least three moulds. The Captain Cook figurine was made from eight moulds and was one of the most complex pieces produced by them.

    Captain James Cook was born at Marton, North Yorkshire on 27 October 1728. By the age of 20 he was serving an apprenticeship in the port of Whitby, gaining skills in navigation and mathematics under the coal shipper John Walker. In 1755 Cook joined the Royal Navy and was made master's mate on HMS EAGLE. Soon after he was promoted to Master of the PEMBROKE and conducted survey work on the St Lawrence River in Quebec, and the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

    In 1768 Cook was chosen by the Admiralty to conduct an expedition to the Pacific in command of HMB ENDEAVOUR, to view the transit of Venus and locate the Great South Land. He undertook two more voyages to the Pacific, the second in command of RESOLUTION and ADVENTURE with the hope of finding the Great South Land and the third in command of RESOLUTION and DISCOVERY to locate the Northwest Passage. It was during this third voyage that Cook visited Hawaii, then called the Sandwich Islands and was killed on 14 February 1779 in an altercation with the local Hawaiians.

    His extraordinary seamanship skills and discoveries along with his tragic and violent death increased public interest in Cook and generated the production of a variety of souvenir mementoes over the ensuing centuries.

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Figurine of Captain James Cook

    Web title: Captain James Cook

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