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Captain James King, engraving after Webber
, 1784

by Francesco Bartolozzi

engraving (frame: 16.2 cm x 14.2 cm depth 2.3 cm, sight: 12.4 cm x 10.4 cm)

James King (c. 1750–1784), naval officer, was born in Lancashire and educated at Clitheroe Grammar School before entering the navy in 1762. After serving in Newfoundland under Commodore Hugh Palliser, a friend and patron of Cook’s, he was promoted to lieutenant in 1771 and later undertook scientific study in Paris. Recommended for Cook’s third voyage, he shared duties of astronomer with Cook, contributing much to the various surveys that were completed. After Cook was killed and Charles Clerke, who had transferred from the Discovery to command the Resolution, died of tuberculosis, King commanded the Discovery on the voyage home. It was King who completed the account of the third voyage, working at Woodstock, near Oxford. In 1782, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society for his astronomical observations. After more time at sea in the Channel and the West Indies, he saw the publication of the three volumes of the voyage before dying of tuberculosis in Nice at the age of 34.

Francescos Bartolozzi’s engravings of captains James Cook and James King, the only such images ever issued by the artist, were based on paintings by the voyage artist John Webber. Earlier in 1784, Webber had collaborated with Bartolozzi to execute a print of his famous depiction of the death of Cook.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased with funds provided by Robert Oatley AO 2007
Accession number: 2007.31.2