Engravers: S. Smith, J. Hall and J. Thornthwaite

The Death of Captain James Cook, by the Indians of O’Why’ee, one of the Snadwich Is

Engraving. G Carter and Sayer & Bennet. London 1784



This depiction of Cook’s death in Hawaii is an alternative image to the famous painting by Webber. This engraving was made after the 1781 painting by George Carter. John Hall engraved Captain Cook, Samuel Smith engraved the landscape and John Thornthwaite the remaining figures.

The exact details so Cook’s death are debated. Some accounts state that Cook tried to prevent the violence and asked his men not to fire until it was too late, as is portayed in Webber’s famous painting. Others, such as this image based on Carter’s painting, show Cook more actively engaging the Hawaiian warriors. The image shows the Captain gripping his rifle to swing towards the group of Hawaiian warriors facing him, one of whom raises a dagger to plunge into his shoulder while Cook’s men fire from the ships’ boats.

Carter was born in Cochester in April 1737, the son of George and Elizabeth Carter. Carter’s dramatic portrayal of contemporary events such as the death of Captain James Cook were greatly influenced by John Copley with whom Carter visited France and Italy in 1771. Copley initially described Carter as “a very polite and sensible man, who has seen much of the world”. However, relations between them soured and Copley later compared him to “a sort of snail which crawled over a man in his sleep and left its slime, and no more”.

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