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The Apotheosis of Captain Cook

Date: 1785
Overall: 587 mm
Medium: Print on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00003928

User Terms

    'The Apotheosis of Captain Cook' is a monochrome print, glorifying Captain James Cook to the point of divinity. It shows him ascending through the clouds above Karakakooa Bay (now known as Kealakekua Bay), Hawaii alongside the allegorical figures of Britannia and Fame. Cook was killed by the Hawaiians on 14 February 1779 during his third voyage to the Pacific. Soon after his death numerous portraits began circulating depicting Cook as a tragic European hero.
    From a design by P J De Loutherbourg. The view of Karakakooa Bay is from a drawing by John Webber (the last he made).
    SignificanceThis print demonstrates the building of European myths and worship around Captain James Cook. Cook's death in Hawaii resulted in his exaltation within British society to the point of hero worship.
    HistoryCaptain Cook was killed on the shore of Kealakekua Bay (previously known as Karakakooa Bay), Hawaii on 14 February 1779 by the local inhabitants. It is believed the incident occurred after the Hawaiians stole a small cutter from the Europeans and Cook retaliated by taking their Chief hostage. Conflict broke out culminating in Cook being clubbed and stabbed to death. After his tragic and violent death the representations of Captain Cook in books, paintings and portraits show him as a heroic figure, sometimes almost to the point of divine worship. This has been referred to as the apotheosis of Captain Cook. This favoured treatment was given to other prominent historical figures in the 18th and 19th century including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

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