Webber View in Macao
John Webber (1751-1791) was the official artist appointed by the Admiralty on Cook’s third and last voyage (1776-17780). Webber was charged with recording places, peoples, objects and events which were worthy of note, a selection of which were used to illustrate the hugely popular official account of the voyage published in 1784.
Webber used this scene as the basis for an etching which appeared in his collected volume of 16 prints, Views of the South Seas, published until after his death. This is the only one of the series for which the original artwork has not previously been known.
This drawing fills a gap in the story of Cook’s final and fateful voyage. It depicts that time on the latter part of the third voyage, when, after pursuing the voyage mission with stoic persistence to find the ice-blocked North West passage through the Bering Strait, the ships turned for home. When they reached Macao, the ships restocked and negotiated with the Chinese, in order to avoid having to stop at the fever-ridden port of Batavia (present day Jakarta). The voyagers were overjoyed to arrive at a friendly port where there were European residents, as the ship’s log noted on arrival, ‘Our inexpressible joy, and satisfaction; Having had no intelligence from Europe, for a space of three years…’ Webber was free to explore the area around Macao and created this delicate and entrancing landscape showing the mountains, river mouth, Portuguese buildings and garden where Camoens, their great national poet, wrote his epic Lusiad.
Acquired with the assistance of The Art Fund, ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Normanby Charitable Trust, Headley Trust, Sir George Martin Trust and several private donors