The Great Court of the British Museum, £9.99
Height: 461.000 mm
Width: 291.000 mm
PD Mm. 1-82
Prints and Drawings
Francesco Bartolozzi, Omai a Native of Ulaietea, an engraving (after a sketch by Nathaniel Dance)
Published in London, England, AD 1774
A Pacific Islander's celebrity portrait
Omai, a young South Sea Islander, charmed the officers of the Discovery and the Adventure when they were anchored off the island of Huahine in August 1773, during Captain Cook's second voyage to Australasia. He accepted the proposal of Captain Furneaux, James Cook's second in command, that he should go back to England with them. During the voyage he was taught English by Lieutenant Burney, brother of the novelist Fanny Burney.
They were met at Portsmouth by the First Lord of the Admiralty and by Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal Society. This portrait was drawn by Nathaniel Dance soon after Omai's arrival in England and engraved in the fashionable new dotted manner and published by Francesco Bartolozzi. Omai arrived in England at a time when people from parts of the world that were considered untainted by modern European civilization, were thought to embody the natural character and primitive nobility of mankind. For two years Omai was feted by English Society as a remarkably handsome and civilized 'noble savage'. He then took up Captain Cook's offer of a return voyage to his Pacific home.
A. Griffiths, Prints and printmaking: an int, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)