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Captain Cook or an Unknown Italian Admiral on statue


I am a New Zealand researcher trying to find out some information about a strange statue of Cook at the Captain Cook Brewery in Auckland which was carved by a Sydney sculptor in the 1880s.  It is said to have been copied from a portrait displayed at an exhibition in Sydney in the 1870s or early 1880s.


Description: Italian Admiral on Kaiti Hill

Statue on Kaiti Hill, Gisborne


For the past few years it has been known anecdotally in New Zealand that this statue seems to be an unknown Italian admiral.  What I am trying to do is to find out about this admiral. 


The statue was erected on Kaiti Hill above Gisborne in 1969.1  It was cast from an original, which stood at the gates of a brewery in Auckland for many years, and was supposed to depict Captain Cook.2


I have trawled through naval reference books, Wikipedia and Google images looking at every Italian, Genoese, Venetian and Neapolitan admiral I could find an image of, and also looked at images of French, Spanish and Dutch admirals and explorers from all of these countries.  However I cannot find anyone (especially Italian) wearing a uniform similar to the one this figure wears.


In the process of research I contacted Edna Carson, the librarian at Lion Breweries, which now owns the Captain Cook Brewery (and their statue).  It was her logic that led me to believe that the statue was likely to have been sculpted in Sydney by an Italian sculptor.


The statue predates Moss Davis who became a partner in the brewery in 1885.  It is first mentioned in an article in the New Zealand Herald of September 1882 that said that Thomas Hancock’s manager Samuel Jagger had ordered the statue from Sydney.  An article in the Auckland Star of November 1884 records the installation of the statue at the Captain Cook Brewery in Newmarket, Auckland.


The 1884 article also gives the background to Jagger’s decision.  He had seen a portrait of Cook at a colonial exhibition in Sydney (presumably in the 1870s or early 1880s) and ordered a statue copied from this portrait.  The Star article says the statue was carved from a block of Carrara marble, and I suspect this was the origin of the assumption that the statue was made in Italy. 


Edna Carson reasons that the sculptor could not have been British, because if he was he would have realised this was not the uniform or hat of an eighteenth century naval officer.  The only prominent foreign sculptors in Sydney at the time were Italians.  I think the most likely sculptor was Achille Simonetti who was a fashionable Sydney sculptor during the 1880s. 


The statue’s face is similar to Cook’s in John Basire’s engraving (from Hodges’s portrait).  I assume that Simonetti had no clear idea of what an eighteenth century lieutenant wore, so copied the coat from paintings of early nineteenth century naval captains.  Cook’s coat is also similar to the coat Captain Clerke wears in the Dance portrait of him – albeit with epaulettes added!  However the statue’s cocked hat is the most non-English feature in the whole confection.  Despite this, as far as we know Jagger was satisfied that this statue was Cook.  This is why it would be good if I could track down this mysterious portrait.


Does any member have any information about this portrait and who painted it?  What about the name of the sculptor who carved the statue?
If you do, please email the editor of the Captain Cook Society.

Chris Paxton


  1. Cook’s Log, page 764, vol. 14, no. 1 (1991).
  2. Cook’s Log, page 648, vol. 12, no. 1 (1999).

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 38, volume 35, number 3 (2012).



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I am doing research on unknown Italians. Have you found anything on this individual? I would appreciate hearing from you
Larry Tartaglino
By Larry Tartaglino on 10/12/2013 2:35:24 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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The Auckland Star of 3 December 1884 carries the story of the receipt and original set up, of the Cook Statue.
The sculptor is named as a Mr Wilson, who "designed the statue from the best known portrait in existence, which attracted much attention in the Sydney Exhibition."
Then again, when the statue was moved in 1930, the Star wrote that it had been "fashioned in 1886," so maybe they were wrong about the sculptor, as well?
My great grandfather, Charles Spooner, worked for Jagger as chief brewer. In a 'previous life' he was a sea captain, and when the statue was moved again c. 1887, the Star credited Charles' knowledge of block and tackle, rigging and haulage for the safe transfer.
By David Boyd on 9/29/2012 12:15:28 PM Like:1 DisLike:0

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