“A New Development in the Imagery of Cultural Contact”—Joppien & Smith
38. [CLEVELEY, John or James (attributed)]. 4 prints. Provenance: Sir Maurice Holmes.
Plate 1: Vue du Détroit Charlotte dans la Nouvelle Zélande dans la Mer du Sud [left below image]: Jas. Clevely [lower right]: Piringer. No. 1.... Paris, [ca. 1789]. Copper-engraved aquatint, contemporary hand coloring. Neat line to neat line: 42.7 x 59.8 cm (16-3/4 x 23-1/2 inches). Entire image: 46.5 x 61.3 cm (18-1/4 x 24-1/8 inches). Beddie 1757, 1758, 1759. Depicts the Resolution and Discovery at Matavai Bay.
Plate 2: Vue de L’Ile Huaheim [sic] dans la Mer du Sud [left below image]: Jas. Clevely [lower right]: Piringer. No. 2.... Paris, [ca. 1789]. Copper-engraved aquatint, contemporary hand coloring. Neat line to neat line: 42.7 x 59.8 cm (16-3/4 x 23-1/2 inches). Entire image: 46.5 x 61.3 cm (18-1/4 x 24-1/8 inches). Beddie 1764, 1765, 1766. View of Huahine.
Plate 3: Vue de L’Ile Maréa une des Iles des Amis dans La Mer du Sud [left below image]: Jas. Clevely [lower right]: Piringer. [along bottom]: (Voyage du Capitaine Cook No. 3) | De L’imprimerie du Graveur à Paris, chez Bance aine, rue St Denis No. 3. Paris, [ca. 1789]. Copper-engraved aquatint, contemporary hand coloring. Neat line to neat line: 42.7 x 59.8 cm (16-3/4 x 23-1/2 inches). Entire image: 46.5 x 61.3 cm (18-1/4 x 24-1/8 inches). Beddie 1771, 1773. Said to be one of the “friendly islands.” Joppien & Smith remark on the titles and statements of locations in these prints: "Obviously Martyn [the English publisher of Cleveley’s aquatints] was not particularly well versed in Cook's voyages or Pacific geography."
Plate 4: Mort du Capitaine Cook [left below image]: Jas. Clevely [lower right]: Piringer [along bottom]: De l’imprimerie du Graveur à Paris chez Bance ainé, rue St. Denis, Voyage du Capt. Cook No. 4. Paris, [ca. 1789]. Copper-engraved aquatint, contemporary hand coloring. Neat line to neat line: 42.7 x 60.2cm (16-3/4 x 23-7/8 inches). Entire image: 46.5 x 61.5 cm (18-3/8 x 24-1/8 inches). Beddie 1779-1782, 2579-2582. Depicts the Death of Captain Cook in an expansive tropical landscape.
Condition report: Old mat burn at blank edges (not affecting image), scattered light foxing and staining, uniform light browning, a few small flaws (no losses). Professionally deacidified. The photographs in this catalogue were made before restoration.
These beautifully engraved and hand-colored French views are based on a series of four aquatints published in London, originally engraved by Francis Jukes, whom the Gentleman’s Magazine described as “if not the inventor, certainly the first that brought [aquatint] to a degree of perfection” (Vol. LXXXII, p. 300). The views are supposedly based on John Cleveley’s work, which in turn has been said to be based on drawings by John’s brother James, allegedly an eye-witness to Cook’s death. James Cleveley was ship’s carpenter on the Resolution on Cook’s third voyage. On the Cleveley attribution problem and related discussion, see Joppien & Smith (Vol. II, p. 127 & Vol. III, pp. 216-221 & Plates 205-209). For more background information on the prints, see Forbes’ (Hawaiian National Bibliography 143), where a prospectus for the prints is catalogued.
Above and beyond the unsolved mysteries of attribution, these spectacular prints are assuredly among the more magnificent, idealistic images of the Pacific ever created. All show the Discovery and Resolution at anchor surrounded by fabulously exotic landscapes, large-scale views that were not present in the official accounts or other publications connected with the third voyage. These prints introduced many Europeans to an area of the world that was just barely beginning to be understood and appreciated. French interest in Cook’s voyages and other explorations ran high, and translations of many works relating to his voyages were quickly made into French after their initial publications elsewhere. These beautiful, faithful renderings of the original English prints are manifestations of that continued interest among the citizens of England’s greatest oceanic rival.
The death of Cook depicted here is the classical rendering of the Captain in charge, standing and ordering his Marines to cease fire. Unlike the close-up, personalized, emotional Carter view of Cook’s death (Items 36 and 37 herein), Cleveley distances his audience from the horror, setting the event within a huge landscape of tropical splendor, distant mountains, and canoes and ships in the water. Some other views of the death are more grim, such as that found in Captain Cook’s Three Voyages.... (London: George Routledge and Sons, [ca. 1880]; see Item 31 herein).
Joppien and Smith come to the core of the matter in their insightful essay on “The Cleveley Problem” (Vol. III, pp. 220: “The [prints] are illuminating in that the very problem of authenticity they present underlines the difficulty we face in marking a clear dividing line between the kind of art that seeks to inform and that which seeks to invent in order to reinforce popular interests and popular prejudices.... Although it is difficult to point to any specific images in the Cleveley drawings that provide visual information about the Pacific that is not available from direct sources, there is an important sense in which the drawings develop out of the voyage art. They may be read as a new development in the imagery of cultural contact.... It is the excitement of the voyage itself that is being celebrated in the Cleveley drawings, the voyage from the point of the view of the men who manned the ships, a kind of British broadsheet art that was eminently suited to begin the preparation of the nation for its great nineteenth-century imperial adventure. But it was not, paradoxically, an outward-looking art, that sought to embrace the strange; no longer an art of information or curiosity. It was a school for seeing. Topographical art had begun to turn inward upon itself to enjoy, perhaps a little self-indulgently, the personal excitements of the imperial adventure.”
See also: Beaglehole III, pp. ccxiv (brief mention of the prints). O’Reilly-Reitman 9980. For more on aquatint and Cleveley, see Prideaux, Aquatint Engraving, pp. 81, 84, 182. (4 prints) ($20,000-40,000)
Images (click to enlarge)
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