Detail from Vue de l'intérieur d'une Maison dans l'Isle d'Uliétea. Representation d'une danse à la mode du pays. (View of the interior of a house on the island of Uliétea. Representation of a dance in the custom of the country) by Palas, 1774. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
In an open, colonnaded wooden pavilion with rafters, women of the island of Uliétea perform a native dance. A group of observers is at the right. Musicians are at the left, one of whom plays a nose flute, while others play drums. The drum may be a "pahu," which was used in Tahiti and in the Society Islands at the time of Captain James Cook's voyages in the South Pacific in the late 18th century. The pahu is described as having a "cylindrical sound-box made of wood." The drum skin was often made of shark skin and it was secured with plaited coconut fiber. The taller version of a pahu was beaten with sticks, but the smaller pahu was played with the hands and was used to accompany dances or songs on festive occasions.
This image of a dance performance on the island of Uliétea appeared as a plate in a 4-volume book describing the voyages to the southern hemisphere by Commodore Byron, and Captains Carteret, Wallis and Cook in their ships the Dauphin, Swallow, and Endeavour in the late 1700s. This plate is from volume 3, plate 6. It is folded between pages 40 and 41. Both the Miller print and the plate from this book have the same inscriptions and the plate impressions and sheet dimensions are the same for both. The Miller print is nearly as fine as the original plate in this book, but it has less "texture" than the book plate.
Compare with 457/U and 459/U, etchings by Copia after drawings by Piron from a different book illustrating the 1791-1793 voyages of Bruni d'Entrecasteaux to Australia and Tasmania in search of La Pérouse, a French explorer who disappeared after leaving Botany Bay in 1788.
About the Artist
Palas, engraver, 18th century
The artist, Palas, is not included in Bénézit, and further research on him is needed.
- For an image and more information about the pahu drum see a Web site entitled Cook's Pacific Encounters: Cook-Forster Collection credited jointly to the National Museum of Australia and Göttingen University. [back to article]
- See J[ohn] Hawkesworth, comp. Relation des voyages entrepris par ordre de Sa Majesté britannique ... pour faire des découvertes dans l'hémisphere méridional, et successivement exécutés par le commodore Byron, le capitaine Carteret, le capitaine Wallis & le capitaine Cook, dans les vaisseaux le Dauphin, le Swallow & l'Endeavour. Paris, Saillant et Nyon; Panckoucke, 1774. 4 vols. Rare Book and Special Collections. LC call number: G420.C65H33. [back to article]