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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Jasperware medallion of Captain James Cook, 1779

Wedgwood and Bentley (manufacturer)

white on blue Jasper Ware in oval shaped wood and gilt frame (frame: 12.0 cm x 10.2 cm depth 2.3 cm, sight: 8.0 cm x 6.2 cm)

Josiah Wedgwood, potter and industrialist, was apprenticed to his potter brother, Thomas, at an early age. When his brother denied him a partnership in the family business, he collaborated with the prominent potter Thomas Whieldon to establish his first pottery factory, in Burslem, Staffordshire, with Thomas Bentley (1730-1780) as his business partner. In the 1770s Wedgwood and Bentley established the Etruria works near Stoke-on-Trent. Jasperware, granularly textured stoneware with white bas relief, was introduced in 1774. In later life Wedgwood was a prominent advocate of the abolition of slavery, from 1787 using his Wedgwood Jasperware as a means to publicise the cause in Britain and America. The plaque of Cook is thought to be one of a series of ‘Illustrious Moderns’ produced by Wedgwood and Bentley comprising portraits of scientists, philosophers, doctors and statesmen of the times. Many of the Jasperware reliefs were designed by John Flaxman (1755-1826), who worked for Wedgwood from 1775 to 1787, before he cemented his illustrious reputation as a sculptor and draughtsman.

Wedgwood’s plaque portrait of James Cook is based on an engraving executed by James Basire after the painting by William Hodges, the official artist on Cook’s second voyage.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Robert Oatley AO 2007

Accession number: 2007.27

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Wedgwood and Bentley

Captain James Cook RN (age 51 in 1779)

Subject professions

Exploration and settlement

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Betty Churcher on Captain Cook video: 3 minutes
Betty Churcher on Captain Cook video: 3 minutes
Betty Churcher on Captain Cook video: 3 minutes
Betty Churcher on Captain Cook video: 3 minutes

'The portraits of Captain Cook'

An interview with Betty Churcher

Portrait story

Betty Churcher describes the creation of the portrait of Captain James Cook in the National Portrait Gallery.

Captain James Cook portrait story video: 2 minutes
Captain James Cook portrait story video: 2 minutes
Captain James Cook portrait story video: 2 minutes
Captain James Cook portrait story video: 2 minutes

Captain Cook

'The photojournalists of their time'

Portrait story

An exploration of the role of artists such as John Webber who, whilst a member of Cook’s crew over many voyages, created paintings and drawings of the situations and people the explorers encountered.

Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber
Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber
Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber
Portrait of Captain James Cook RN, 1782 John Webber

Thrown together

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2009

Shipmates for years, James Cook and Joseph Banks each kept a journal but neither man shed light on their relationship.

We would like to thank our partners.
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.