Topless portrait of 18th Tahitian princess to be seen for first time in 200 years





A topless portrait of a Tahitian princess painted on one of Captain Cook's Pacific journeys, that launched the West's love affair with the south Pacific, is to go on public display after 200 years in private hands.

The portrait of Princess Poetua, now worth up to £1.2 million, was painted as she was taken captive by Cook in 1777 as a bargaining tool for his own men, who had gone ashore to enjoy the company of the female Society Islanders.

The botanist Sir Joseph Banks, who also accompanied Cook on his trips, wrote of the native women: "On the island of Otaheite where Love is the Cheif [sic] occupation, the favourite, nay, the Sole Luxury of the inhabitants; both the bodies & the souls of the women are modeld [sic] into the most upmost [sic] perfection."


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