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National Museum of Australia

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Oval grey wax bas-relief portrait plaque of Captain James Cook

2007.0039.0001

Oval grey wax bas-relief portrait plaque of Captain James Cook

Object information

Physical description

An oval, grey wax bas-relief portrait plaque of Captain Cook, in a dark brown wooden frame with a convex glass cover. There are a number of fine cracks emanating from Cook's hairline on both sides, and from the proper right edge of the plaque to below his chin and along his left shoulder. A small brass hanging ring is attached to the top of the back of the frame and the glass cover is detached.

Statement of significance

The Wax Matrix Portrait of James Cook Collection consists of one wax matrix portrait of James Cook, in a wooden frame under a glass cover. The portrait is in good condition but has hairline cracks in the upper part of the image. The frame and glass cover are in good condition.

Captain Cook's three voyages of discovery between 1768 and his death in 1779 produced accurate maps, extensive collections of natural history specimens and ethnographic materials, and major advances in navigation and hydrography which revolutionised European understanding of the Pacific. These voyages laid the groundwork for Britain's expanded Colonial empire and the establishment of settlements in Australia and New Zealand. The British Admiralty celebrated Cook's voyages by publishing official accounts of each one, and as the scientific impact of the voyages spread, so Cook's fame grew and his portrait was sought by a populace fascinated by the eighteenth century's growing cult of personality.

Object information

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