Portuguese Emissaries Received by the King of Kongo, late 16th cent.

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Image Reference

Duarte Lopes, Regnum Congo hoc est: warhaffte und eigentliche beschreibung dess Konigreichs Congo in Africa (Franckfort am Mayn, 1609), illustration no. 2. (Copy in Library Company of Philadelphia)

The German caption above the illustration reads in English: "How the Portuguese appear before the King of Kongo." A fanciful depiction inspired by the account of the Portuguese Duarte Lopes/Lopez who visited the Congo in 1578. The illustration purports to depict the King on his throne, surrounded by retainers and court attendants, with the Portuguese emissaries appearing before him. The caption underneath describes how the leader of the Portuguese expedition interested the king in Catholicism and how the latter eagerly accepted the religion, and wrote the King of Portugal, requesting that he send out priests "and images of Jesus on the cross." This image does not appear in the original edition of Lopes, Relatione del reame di Congo ( Rome, 1591 [New York Public Library]). A reversed image of this, taken from an unidentified source, is in the National Maritime Museum, London (neg. D3823). This image was originally done by the Flemish engravers, the brothers Johan Theodore and Johan Israel De Bry, and was first published in the early 17th century (Orientalische Indien [Frankfort, 1597; German edition]; India Orientalis [Frankfort, 1598; Latin edition] vol. 1, plate 2). The De Brys had never visited Africa and constructed their illustrations of Africans from the late 16th century eye-witness accounts by the Dutchman Pieter de Marees of the Gold Coast, and by the Portuguese Duarte Lopez of the kingdom of Kongo. For an extended discussion of the De Brys' illustrations of Africa and their sources, see Ernst van den Boogaart, De Brys' Africa, in Susanna Burghartz, ed., Inszenierte Welten: Die west-und ostindischen reisen der verleger de Bry, 1590-1630 [Staging New Worlds: De Brys' Illustrated Travel Reports, 1590-1630] (Basel, 2004), pp. 95-149; for this image in particular, see pp. 99-103.