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This page is about portraits of Cook, the artists who made them and the use of the portraits on stamps. 

New On This Site:

August 2013 South Georgia stamps Endeavour shuttle update.

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This site does not try to tell Cook's story. There are other sites that do that very well. Rather than repeat those stories many Cook sites are linked here.

There are many stamps about Cook. The Captain Cook Study Unit has illustrations of some from the last decade and a great downloadable file (pdf) of all the stamps ever issued. The countries I have used here do mostly have some Cook association - Some issuing Cook stamps have little or none. If this site has a bit of a bias towards New Zealand and Australia, well that is my part of the world. 

Some of the art here was by people who were renowned in the late 18th century, showing the importance vested upon Cook.  Dance, Flaxman and Zofany's works often feature in accounts and exhibitions of the art of the period.

One great place to see Cook art originals is in the Inigo Jones' Queen's House at Greenwich.

The Contemporary Portraits
The portraits here are of Cook, though others on the voyages appear on stamps as well: Banks, Solander, Bligh and Parkinson

Portrait Use on Stamps

(Thumbnail - link to NMM)
Nathaniel Dance
, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

E Phillips Fox after Dance, National Gallery of Victoria

The Nathaniel Dance portrait together with HMS Resolution, one of the ships on the second and third voyages, and that captained by Cook. Antarctic Philately has a page about the great southern ocean explorations on these voyages.
Britain 1999, pictured together with a Maori taken from a Parkinson drawing from the first voyage. Parkinson original
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This is an elegant use of the Dance portrait on a Canadian stamp of 1978 (a Bicentennial issue).

Engraving after Dance

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Engraving J K Sherwin after Dance (hand coloured)

Rarotonga (Cook Islands) 1920 - the first use of the Dance portrait on a stamp and the first of many Cook Islands stamps about Cook - well they are named after him - and are any other Cook stamps as handsome? There are like stamps of the same date and value under the names Niue, Aitutake and Penrhyn with the same centre, but different frames and differing colours on the frames. NZ Dependencies' Stamps
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USA 1978 - from the Dance portrait or more likely the Sherwin engraving - with the eyes raised. 
The issue was on the bicentennial of the third voyage visits to Alaska and Hawaii.kealakekua1.jpg (29370 bytes)

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(Thumbnails - Print and detail of Kealakekua used on stamp)

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Another engraving of the same view (Cook voyage accounts and views were very popular and much copied for new editions) 

The USA first asserted copyright over stamps in 1978 starting with this issue. This is extraordinary given the derivative nature of the design elements.

New Zealand 1997 - again the eyes raised.
Australia 1966 - based a stamp on the portrait but to accommodate the stamp proportions invented a bit more to put in the left of the frame. There is also a pre-decimal version of the same stamp.

Here is an oddity - A New Zealand nostalgia stamp which reproduces (bottom right) a New Zealand one pound note picturing Cook 
- which is taken (mirrored) from the Dance portrait. There are also several other stamps pictured on the stamp. A reproduction of a reproduction of a likeness.

John Webber, Te Papa, Wellington
Australia used the portrait in its Cook Bicentenary issue (1970) but the wig turned into hair in the process.

(Thumbnail - link to NPG)
John Webber, National Portrait Gallery Canberra.

Vanuatu 1999 (From a miniature sheet) - with Resolution and Tanna map. The hand and the uniform details make it clear the origin was the Canberra Webber.

This Webber portrait acquired by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia in 2000 has a colourful recent history. When owned by a company controlled by Alan Bond - a notorious Australian businessman - it was the subject of a supposed sale for a ridiculously cheap price. Bond was convicted an jailed over a huge business fraud. The receiver of Bond's company had seized the picture but was later seeking to recover the loss on the transaction from Bond. For more see : story on Bond.

(Thumbnail - link to NHM)
William Hodges
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
This painting was lost for many years, the portrait only being known through the following engraving.
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South Georgia using the Hodges portrait and other pics.
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Comoros (with the Endeavour Shuttle) - the white necktie suggests the portrait rather than the engraving below was the source of this design.

Engraving J Basire after Hodges.
This French Antarctic Territory stamp would seem to be modelled loosely on Hodges (Mirrored)
Norfolk Island 1974 - a bicentennial stamp.

(Thumbnail - link to NPG)

John Webber
National Portrait Gallery, London.
This portrait is another from the same sitting with Cook as the other Webber painting.
? Not used on a stamp?

(Thumbnail- link to NHM)
Francesco Bartolozzi engraver, after Webber. 
? Not used on a stamp?

(Detail, hand coloured engraving,  - mirroredwhole picture)
"An offering before Cpt Cook in the Sandwich Islands" (i.e. Hawaii),
Eng. Middiman after Weber.
NSW 1888 - The source of the head is suggested as the engraving after Weber. It is the New South Wales Centenary issue of 1888, this copy overprinted OS for Official Service. This is the first ever Cook stamp. It has been claimed this series is the world's oldest commemorative series.


Later Portraits
I have restricted this site to sculptural portrayals.

Portrait Use on Stamps

Josiah Wedgwood and Bentley after John Flaxman 1784 

Cameo, Wedgwood Portland blue jasper medallion (ceramic). These were a popular. eighteenth century art form. Bentley was Wedgwood's partner of the time. (There are also reproductions from the original mould, made in 1968).

One on a green ground - courtesy Pete & Barbara

There is a second Wedgwood and Bentley plaque based on the Greenwich Hodges portrait, which does not seem to have been used on a stamp.
Wedgwood Plaque - it also exists with a blue ground:

"Two Wedgwood portrait medallions of Captain Cook were modelled by John Flaxman. The first, a three-quarter profile, was adapted from the portrait by William Hodges who accompanied Cook on the voyage of 1772-1775. The second portrait medallion depicts Cook's profile and was produced about 1784, and adapted from the Royal society medallion executed by Lawrence Pingo in 1779." Source

bicentenary.jpg (11648 bytes)Wedgwood Cook bicentenary mini plaque. (Thumbnail)


A 20th C. reissue on basalt ground. A modern edition on a blue ground also exists.

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The New Zealand issue on the bicentennial of the first voyage visit to New Zealand used the medallion on one of the four values.

Banks Plaque banks.jpg (10332 bytes)

The Banks plaque here is not the one on the stamp. That is illustrated in Reilly who attributes it to Flaxman. Reilly also shows plaques of Solander and Forster, the fellow naturalists of the Cook voyages.

Reilly, R 1973 Wedgwood Portrait Medallions, An Introduction. Barrie and Jenkins, London.

Gilbert Islands
Samoa used a cut down version on this 1970 stamp, but the designer removed the neck tie.
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Norfolk Island 1969, using the plaque portrait and commemorating the observation of the transit of Venus in Tahiti, an event which brought Cook to the Pacific. The transit allowed the calculation of the size of the Astronomical Unit - the distance of the sun from the earth. There was a recent transit in 2004 - a rare event.
Portrait medallion of Captain James Cook by Lewis Pingo, issued by the Royal Society in 1784

The obverse has the uniformed bust of James Cook with the Latin legend: IAC. COOK OCEANI INVESTIGATORI ACERRIMVS [James Cook most intrepid investigator of the seas]. Below it reads: REG. SOC.LOND. / SOCIO. SVO [The Royal Society  London , to its Fellow]. Cook had been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1775.

The reverse shows the Roman Goddess Fortune, and reads:   legend NIL INTENTATVM NOSTRI LIQVERE [Our men have left nothing unattempted]. Below the figure is the Latin legend AUSPICIIS / GEORGII / III [Under the auspices of George III].

Used on Stamp?

James Tassie, (attributed) "Portrait medallion of Captain Cook." The features look unlike Cook so we might take the subject as attributed too.

Obverse 1784 Royal Society Medal in Silver. The Hawaiian club has always made this medal popular in America.


Cook in the Mall, near Admiralty Arch, London, bronze, Sir Thomas Brock. Other work, More.

New Zealand 1940. Endeavour, Cook's NZ chart and Cook. This depiction of Cook  is based on the statue and is no doubt from a photograph of it in place, explaining the strange upward view. An essay in Collins Vol II * shows much more of the statue. (Des. J Berry)
* Collins R.J.G. and C.W. Watts, 1951, The Postage Stamps of New Zealand, Vol 2.
Cook Islands 1949. The London Statue on a stamp.

Cook in Whitby Yorkshire. Bronze, Sir John Tweed, RA..1869-1933 Other work More  More

A copy in Victoria BC 
There is another copy at Waimea, Kauai, Hawaii.

Norfolk Island 1979
Samoa 1970 - a straightforward view of the Whitby statue.

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A marble Cook statue in Victoria Square, Christchurch, NZ.

There is a metal plaque on the front of the base which reads;
On the back is another which reads;
On the statue itself is carved near the bottom:
FECIT 1932
WT Trethewey was a local artist. 
[Thanks to Bernard Hempseed for the above information]

A Cinderella showing the statue.
The Cook statue was carved out of a 12 ton block of Carrara marble, the best in the world and as used by Michelangelo. It was believed to be the biggest block ever imported into NZ or Australia up to that time. During carving about 5 tons were removed and it took about a year to complete. The statue stands about 3.3 meters tall on a 3.0 metre pedestal which even has a time capsule in . From a life of William Trethewey,  "Raising the Phoenix" by Ted Pryor. Thanks to Bernard Hempseed for the above information



William Hodges was an official artist on the second exhibition. He was a well known studio artist before joining the expedition, but was best known for landscapes. Hodges struggled with the task of objective depiction. The paintings resulting from the voyage see the world through the eyes of a romantic. His depictions of oceanic people repeatedly fail to capture their physical characteristics, showing them with European features. However his portrait of Cook is arguably the best in capturing his character, being far from the conventional portraits of the late 18th century. William Hodges

Nathaniel Dance was a fashionable portrait artist. He painted Cook in England. He was not a voyage artist.  Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland

John Webber was the official artist on the third voyage. Here is a web site with a little about him, a portrait and some of engravings from his drawings of the Pacific West Coast.  John Webber
We know of a third portrait of Cook by Weber, painted on the voyage and presented to a Tahitian Chief. Bligh saw it some years later but it has never been seen since.

John Flaxman was an illustrator and sculptor who early in his career had Wedgwood as a patron. This article gives some detail on his career. John Flaxman

Sydney Parkinson was an artist on the first voyage. He was trained at a natural history artist and taken on the voyage for that purpose and struggled with people and landscapes. However he persevered after the death of the official landscape artist early in the voyage and left us a wonderful legacy, as well as his original commission of producing flora and fauna illustrations. Sadly he did not complete the voyage, dying of a disease caught in Batavia. He deserves his own stamps (Australia 1986). Sydney Parkinson  More on Parkinson

Johann Zoffany was not a voyage artist though he was scheduled to be in Banks' party on the second voyage - a group which did not survive a pre-voyage boil-over. He did however paint one of the death of Cook pictures. Johann Zoffany


Daniel Solander was a naturalist on the first voyage - invited by Banks. Their intended publication of the botany of the voyage never got beyond a manuscript. However the plates were prepared and eventually published from 1979 onwards. Solander About the Florilegium 
Ann Mette Heindorff has a page on the Australia / Sweden joint issue on Solander, Australia Sweden Joint Issue , which uses the portrait below.
Omai, Banks and Solander by W Parry

Parkinson's Depiction of a Maori Man

Parkinson's original sketch.
 This depiction was also used as a basis for engravings. He is wearing a tiki and moko (tattooing) as well as an ear pendant, feathers and a hair comb.

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A lot of early engravings are mirror images. This was because the engraver copied an image onto a plate as it was presented. Printing from that plate produces a mirror image of the original.


For Cook links, where better than here or the Captain Cook Society

Peter de Wollf's Cook Philatelic Site

Another philatelic site about Cook

World Exploration has a great Cook ephemera page 

Shades Cook Thematic Stamps - Massively illustrated.

Here is a very comprehensive Cook issues list  Another 

Recent Issues

Gazetteer of places named after Cook

Cook memorial sites


This page is still being developed - Information needed:

  • Any  further stamps using the smaller Hodges or Webber portraits - or after engravings of same.
  • The engraver of the portrait after Dance.
  • Any use of the Parkinson sketch of the Endeavour on a stamp.

All material contributions will be acknowledged on this site, with a link if you desire.

Always happy to reciprocate links with compatible sites!

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Garry Law    1999 -  04 August, 2013