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Reproduced courtesy of Frances Rouse

Costume design for Elizabeth Cook, 'Solar Eclipse Tonga'

Date: 1985
Dimensions:
Overall: 670 x 535 mm, 3.1 kg
Medium: Gouache on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Frances Rouse
Classification:Art
Object Name: Costume design
Object No: 00004248

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    Description
    This painting of a dark green gown with black underskirt and lace trimmed sleeves was a costume design for the stage play 'Counting Icebergs'. Frances Rouse's play refers to the life of Elizabeth Cook, the widow of the famous explorer Captain James Cook. Rouse designed this costume to reflect the mood of Mrs Cook during her husband's expeditions. This particular costume relates to Cook's landing at Tonga on 5 July 1777 to view the solar eclipse. Rouse has depicted the eclipse on the bottom of the skirt.
    SignificanceThis costume design for a modern play represents Cook's exploration around the world, specifically his landing at Tonga in 1777 through a design for his wife's dress.
    HistoryFrances Rouse is a Queensland-based playwright who began researching and writing the stage play 'Counting Icebergs' in 1984. It was commissioned by the Australian National Trust, Queensland for the reopening of the James Cook Museum in Cooktown. Rouse was inspired by the limited material available on Elizabeth Cook and the story of her lonely life as a widow, outliving all her children to the age of 94. Rouse's series of paintings 'The Charts of Mrs Cook' are in her own words 'my tribute to her great spirit'.

    Very little is known of Elizabeth Cook, the wife of the famous English explorer Captain James Cook. She was born Elizabeth Batts at Wapping London in 1741, the only child of Samuel and Mary Batts, and married James Cook at St Margaret’s Church, Barking on 21 December 1762. It is believed they met through business associates. The couple first lived in East London near the docks and then Mile End, London.

    They were married for 17 years with Cook being away at sea for the majority of the time and managing to spend a total of only 4 years living with his wife. The couple had six children all of whom died prior to Elizabeth, leaving her without any immediate family for her last 40 years. In her later life Elizabeth lived in financial comfort with a pension provided by King George III and income received from the sale of books detailing Cook's voyages. However, life would have been lonely and she died on 13 May 1835.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Costume design for Elizabeth Cook, 'Solar Eclipse Tonga'

    Primary title: Solar Eclipse, Tonga

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