'Matavai Bay and Point Venus, Tahiti, Augt 24th 1849' [Society Islands]

No. 15 in Fanshawe's Pacific album, 1849 - 52. Captioned by the artist on the page below the image, as title. Matavai Bay, Cook's main base on Tahiti on all his voyages, was in the area ruled in his time by the local chief Tu (afterwards King Pomare I of Tahiti). It is on the north side of the island, east of Papeete. Point Venus, the promontory in the distance, takes its name from being the position from which Cook observed the 1769 transit of Venus across the Sun, the prime aim of his first Pacific voyage in the 'Endeavour'. Fanshawe's account of his own visit states: 'Next day [23rd, after visiting Fautaua] we went in the gig to Point Venus, classic ground. This Post is now in charge of a native chief and some native troops, but the former has been to Paris and wears a tight jacket, and the latter are kept in French pay. We went to the extreme point. There were two huts with fishermen - the same tall athletic sort of fellows that Cook might have seen on the same spot, but they were drunk and insolent. We walked round the shores of Matavai Bay till we came to a steep bluff (One Tree Hill), another French Post, thence on to Papawa, where is the tomb of old Pomare [Cook's Tu], the Constantine of Tahiti; but his bones are said to have been carried off and hid by the natives. Queen Pomare has a new house here, built in the old native style, and a good representation of the houses in Cook's time.....' (Fanshawe [1904] pp.196-97). He goes on to describe the house and a subsequent call by boat to Saonoa, to meet an old Tahitian lady who remembered both Cook and Samuel Wallis, who first found Tahiti in 1766. This drawing is from a higher viewpoint than Fanshawe's account suggests he reached. If so, it is a skilful exercise in imaginative perspective, and presumably done later based on preliminary sketches, despite the ascribed date which is probably based on ship's time (i.e. from noon to noon, and meaning he was at the scene in the afternoon of the 23rd civil time). This is one of a group of 11 Fanshawe drawings of the Society Islands, PAI4616 - PAI426: four show Tahiti (PAI4617 - PAI4620).

Object Details

ID: PAI4620
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Fanshawe, Edward Gennys
Places: Tahiti
Date made: 24 Aug 1849
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 227 x 325 mm
Parts: Album of watercolours of Madeira, Brazil, the Falkland and Pacific Islands, Chile, Panama, Mexico, Vancouver, and California (Album)

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