'The Landing at Mallicolo [Malakula], one of the New Hebrides'

Hodges' paintings of the Pacific are vivid records of British exploration. He was appointed by the Admiralty to record the places discovered on Cook's second voyage, undertaken in the 'Resolution' and 'Adventure', 1772-75. This was primarily in the form of drawings, with some oil sketches, many later converted to engravings in the official voyage account. He also completed large oil paintings for exhibition in London on his return, which exercised lasting influence on European ideas of the Pacific. The National Maritime Museum holds 26 oils relating to the voyage of which 24 were either painted for or acquired by the Admiralty.

Cook's main purpose on this expedition was to locate, if possible, the much talked-of but unknown Southern Continent and further expand knowledge of the central Pacific islands, in which Hodges' records of coastal profiles were in part important for navigational reasons.

Cook was in the New Hebrides from 4 June to 13 September 1774, during which time he spent six weeks making a careful survey of the island group. This painting is an official record of the event, composed in London for engraving in the published account of the voyage, and has adopted the traditional mode of history painting. It also varies from Cook's written account in which he stated that two boats had been dispatched to cut some wood, to be confronted by four or five hundred people from the local community when they landed. Although they were armed with bows and arrows they allowed Cook to advance alone. Cook, his feet in the water, is depicted handing his musket to an officer to accept the green palm branch signifying peace from an islander, also with a foot in the water.

The Malekulans are depicted wearing the 'yelau', a form of loincloth, tied up to a belt worn about the waist. Cook wrote that 'their signs of Friendship is a green branch and sprinkling water with the hand over the head'. Cook and his men are shown in contemporary dress and the islanders are painted to accord with the ethnographic reports, but the artist continues to use poses and gestures whose ultimate origin lies in classical statuary, particularly in the case of the islanders. They have been depicted as tall with a dignified bearing, which is at variance with his journal entry in which Cook described them in derogatory terms. The painting places the Europeans in two small craft that occupy most of the picture in the foreground. The warriors have been located on the ground to the far left, under a large tree. The scene has been framed by trees and hills, enclosing and accentuating the activity taking place in the foreground.

Object Details

ID: BHC1904
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Display - Pacific Encounters Gallery
Creator: Hodges, William
Date made: circa 1776
People: Cook, James
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Caird Fund.
Measurements: Painting: 241 x 470 x 8 mm; Frame: 360 mm x 592 mm x 60 mm; Weight: 4.6 kg

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