Australian Historical Art Fund & Heritage Government Residences

Portrait Medallion of Captain James Cook, c.1779

Wedgwood and Bentley John Flaxman (1755-1826)
Blue jasper ware
Height: 8.5cm Width: 7cm

This portrait medallion is one of the "Heads of Illustrious Moderns" which consists of significant men and woman in the fields of the arts and sciences such as kings, queens, explorers, scientists, poets and historical figures by Josiah Wedgwood and Thomas Bentley from 1771 onwards. John Flaxman was the leading neoclassical sculptor working as a modeller for Wedgwood Pottery.

The medallion of Captain Cook (1728-1779) is in blue jasper dipped darker blue within an early gilt frame. Impressed on the front is "Capt. Cook" and on the verso "Wedgwood and Bentley". It is a lively three quarter portrait of Cook in raised relief, based on a portrait of Cook by William Hodges who accompanied Cook on his voyage of 1772-1775. This medallion is a very rare and significant early work relating to the history of Australia because it depicts Captain Cook, the European discoverer of Australia.

Other similar examples in the Collection include this later Wedgwood blue jasper portrait medallion, c.1850

This selection represents a small sample of our collection. Our book detailing the collection is currently out of print.
An updated edition has been published in 2017.
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