Agate executed this portrait probably while he was traveling with the United States South Seas Surveying and Exploring Expedition as an artist and draftsman. The subject, Otore, was a minor Tahitian chief encountered by the party in the South Pacific. The portrait was probably drawn from life in September 1839, when the expedition reached Tahiti, but may have been finished later on board ship. Agate chose a bust-length format for this portrait, relieving the figure with delicate cross-hatching in the background. This was a fairly standard treatment in engraved portraiture; indeed, the inscription on the drawing “for text vignette” confirms that it was intended for illustration, perhaps in Wilkes’s “Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition” (1845); however, the image was never published.
Signature: [at lower left of drawing in graphite]: A T Agate
Inscription: [at top center in brown ink]: No. 2; [at upper right in graphite]: [illeg]; [at lower center in graphite]: Otore [probably in the sitter's hand] / for text vignette