This hand-coloured aquatint print (above, right) is based on an oil painting by John Webber, an artist on James Cook’s third voyage to the South Seas, depicting a Maori settlement in Queen Charlotte Sound in 1777.
Taken from a lavishly illustrated book owned by the library of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, it is currently on display alongside the original as part of an exhibition in the university’s Adam Art Gallery, State of the Art: Reproductive Prints from the Renaissance to Now (until 20 December).
The aim, says curator David Maskill, senior lecturer in art history at Victoria, is to explore “how and why original works of art have been copied” and “the nature and value of such reproductions”. In the case of the engraving by Giorgio Ghisi based on Michelangelo’s fresco The Last Judgement (above, left), “you could argue that the print is more original than the fresco because it shows nude figures and reveals what the painting looked like before the Pope ordered the addition of clothing”.
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