King Kaumualii’s likenesses

The only likeness of King Kaumualii (1780?-1824) taken from life in existence appears in a 1823 watercolor sketch that missionary William Ellis (1794-1872) made of the funeral procession of Keopuolani, in which Kaumualii is depicted as a small figure dressed in top hat, coat and tails, as shown in Likeness 3.

However, there is a reliable written description of Kaumualii’s appearance penned by Hawaiian historian S. M. Kamakau (1815-1876) in his book “Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii.”

“Kaumualii was a handsome man, light in complexion and with a nose and general features like a white man’s,” Kamakau wrote. “He was rather light in build, but he had a good carriage and dressed well.”

In referring to Kaumualii’s personal characteristics, Kamakau stated: “He was gentle in temper, spoke English well, was kind and simple in his ways.”

James Jarves (1818-1888), Hawaii’s first historian, also wrote of Kaumualii: “He was remarkable for his personal beauty and dignified and gentlemanly manners,” while missionary Rev. Hiram Bingham (1789-1869) said that “he was sedate, dignified, courteous in his manners, honorable in his dealings, respected by foreigners, esteemed by the missionaries, and beloved by his people.”

Since Kaumualii’s death, artists Stickney, Laka Morton and Brook Kapukuniahi Parker have created portraits of Kaumualii with the written descriptions of Kaumualii’s appearance and Ellis’s sketch available to guide their imaginations.

Likeness 1 in the accompanying picture is from a painting by Stickney that once hung in Kauai’s Coco Palms Hotel.

Likeness 2 is from a painting by Morton, and Likeness 5 is from a painting by Parker.

Lastly, Likeness 4 is from an engraved painting taken from life of Kaiana (1756?-1795) in 1787 that reveals some measure of Kaumualii’s appearance, since Kaiana was a first cousin to Kaumualii’s father, Kaeo, and since the drawing corresponds with Kamakau’s description.


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